Saturday, January 12, 2008

Saturday Usage Tip #1

New feature! Isn't this exciting?

I will attempt to post, on each and every Saturday, a tip from Bryan A. Garner's Dictionary of Modern American Usage (Oxford University Press, 2003), "the authority on grammar, usage, and style." (See here for David Foster Wallace's review of the dictionary in Harper's - and read the footnotes, because they're hilarious.) Why bother posting about such things? Well, as implied in the last post, I am kind of a weirdo, okay? So I get all hot under the collar when I see a misplaced apostrophe (Coat's On Sale - ugh!), and I cry to the heavens when someone scornfully says the opposite of what they mean ("I could care less" - oh yuck). And since this is my blog, I'm going to go ahead and get on a grammar-spelling-usage soapbox once a week, and if it makes just one person stop using the word irregardless, I'll have done my part for the world. Let's begin, shall we?

reason is because. This construction is loose because reason implies because and vice versa.... [T]he type "the reason is because" (instead of "the reason... is that") aches with redundancy, and is still... inadmissible in Standard English. After reason is, you'll need a noun phrase, a predicate adjective, or a clause introduced by that.
The best cure for reason is because is to replace because with that--e.g.:

  • "Perhaps the most difficult shot in golf to consistently master is a high, soft, flop shot off a tight lie. Part of the reason is because [read reason is that] to effectively hit the shot requires a looping swing and accelerated clubhead speed."

Variations such as reason is due to are no better--e.g.: "It's a challenge for any athlete to come back after four years of inactivity. The challenge is even greater when the reason is due to injury [read the layoff is due to injury or injury is the cause]".

Garner's Modern American Usage, 2003, pp. 674-75. Quotations and citations omitted.


Anonymous said...

I feel like I just took a usage shower. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

How clever of you to cite an example you'll be able to use again next week in your blog against splitting infinitives! Or has Garner's given up tilting at that particular windmill?