Friday, April 06, 2012

Just stop it

The short answer is yes, they're pretty much interchangeable.

The slightly longer answer is -- no, "grammarians" don't pass judgment on what is or isn't sufficiently laid back for formal writing. (They don't even rule on whether "laid back" is too laid back for formal writing, but I digress.) Grammar doesn't have categories for measuring the laid-backedness of the sundry parts of speech.  Like, I mean, dude.

People who complain about replacing "because of" with "due to" aren't complaining about register, though. They're saying it's grammatically wrong. That judgment doesn't have much (if any) basis in evidence, leading to a longer-still answer:

1) If the "due to" thing is the favorite peeve of the person who signs your paycheck, you should memorize it and then enthusiastically seek out similar peeves. Many of them will be sillier, but it's nice to pay the rent.
2) Otherwise, you have better things to do. Seriously. If you edit for a living, the odds are far higher that in the next 24 hours, you'll come across a genuine grammatical problem -- a booted negation, a bollixed boundary thing, a dangler that goes beyond the bounds of discourtesy into outright nonsense -- than that you will knock the earth off its axis by allowing some writer to use the perfectly acceptable "due to" to mean "because of." And that's not counting the likelihood that the new hire, fluent in HTML but blithely ignorant of how nouns and verbs go together to make up "libel," has defamed eight or 10 people before lunch.

If the Ask The Stylebook folks would like my advice (which I point out is easily worth twice what they've paid for it so far), I'd suggest that most answers should go more like this:

  • Did you look it up?
  • No, really. We put the thing in alphabetical order for your convenience.
  • Do you have a real problem with the idea of owning a dictionary? 
  • Please sharpen my pica pole and hold it steady while I run at it.
  • No, dammit, "steady" is an adjective referring to the state in which I want the sharpened pica pole to be held. I do not care if you hold it steadily as long as it is steady.
  • Please tell me where you went to journalism school so I can have this added to your permanent record.
  • Oh, for God's sake.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fev still thinks that "grammarians" are people who study grammar (sensu stricto). How quaint.

12:37 AM, April 07, 2012  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Yay, fev!

2:35 PM, April 07, 2012  
Blogger Girl with the Interesting Hair said...

Can you help me with a response to a client who insists that "There's no reason not to sign up" is a double-negative and, thus, must be banished without exception?

5:43 PM, April 09, 2012  
Anonymous Ed Latham said...

I'll have a go: There's nothing actually wrong with having two negatives in a sentence: the only objection to the 'double negative' in formal speech/writing is when the second negative is used to intensify the negative rather than reverse it. So in your sentence 'There's no reason not to sign up', removing the 'not' would completely reverse the sense of the sentence. However, in a 'true' double negative, such as 'There ain't no sense in signing up', the 'no' intensifies the negative in 'ain't', rather than reversing it, and that's what some people object to, certainly in formal use. Your sentence is fine, and not really a 'double negative' at all.

1:01 PM, April 11, 2012  
Blogger Girl with the Interesting Hair said...

Thanks, Ed. This is exactly what I was looking for.

4:00 PM, April 11, 2012  

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