Don’t sweat it: Since and because

From "Miss Thistlebottom's Hobgoblins," by Theodore Bernstein

From “Miss Thistlebottom’s Hobgoblins,” by Theodore Bernstein

I’ve already said not to sweat “due to” and “because of,” and here’s another pair that includes “because” that you don’t need to sweat. “Since” has been used with a causal meaning for centuries, and there’s no reason to prohibit that sense of “since,” even though some people insist we should (and discussions about it can get a little heated).

The reason for this insistence is that “since” might be ambiguous, since it can have either a time sense or a causal sense. But there are only a few instances where “since” may truly be ambiguous (“Since you came over, I feel better” — does “since” here mean “because” or “from the time that”?); in fact, most sentences containing “since” have enough context to make the meaning clear.

Bottom line: If you think a sentence containing “since” might be misunderstood or cause a reader to stumble, recast it to ensure clarity. Otherwise, use “since” to mean “because” wherever you like.

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