How excited am I to read the new Jonathan Franzen novel, Freedom? Very. Did I love The Corrections? Yes. Would I have "corrected" a single word in it? Probably not, because since I've been editing for grammar, there are some places I just don't go with certain prose masters. Like that whole since/because thing. Never heard of that one? If you want to go all O.G. on grammar, you should know about that.


Like last week's post, this is an exploration of word choice. There, I talked about the difference between "such as" and "like" and how many readers and writers observe a distinction, while many readers and writers do not. Many copyeditors, especially those known as "old school," do observe it.


So you want to be really O.G. about it? The old school tends to observe a distinction between "since" and "because" as well.


Both are conjunctive adverbs, used to join adverb clauses to independent clauses. Some grammarians opine that "since" suggests the passage of time, a temporal aspect. "Since I've been here, no one has ever corrected Jonathan's prose."


"Because" indicates a causal relationship. Compare "Because I've been here, no one has ever corrected Jonathan's prose." (Because if they did, I'd probably punch 'em like Hemingway would, that's why.)


Others groan and point to common usage, which barely distinguishes between the two.


Which side do you come down on? Since/Because you are reading this, I would have to guess you have an opinion!




Ellen Scordato has 25 years' book publishing experience as an editor, copy editor, proofreader, and managing editor. She's now a partner in The Stonesong Press, a nonfiction book producer and agency. In addition to her work at Stonesong, Ellen has taught grammar, punctuation, and style at the New School for more than 12 years in the English Language Studies department and is currently teaching English as a Second Language at Cabrini Immigrant Services.



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