Writers are sometimes puzzled about whether to use “because,” “since,” or “as” to indicate a connection between two events.

An old rule commands that “since” be used exclusively for events involving the passage of time, but this ukase is debunked by most grammarians. Other experts say that “since” implies a more tenuous cause-effect relationship than “because.”

But I have a different take on the matter. In my own writing, I avoid “since” wherever “because” works. This helps prevent ambiguity and the possibility of miscuing the reader. Consider the sentence “Since the negative earnings report was published, the stock declined.” Does the writer mean that one event caused the other – or simply that time elapsed between them?

As for “as,” this word may also communicate a confusing or ambiguous message. Example: “As I’m traveling to Chicago, I can run that errand for you.” Does the “as” here mean “because” or “while”? If “because” makes sense, use it instead of “as.”

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book recently published by AWAI that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

 

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Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years.
He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic.
Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World’s Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.”
He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993).
Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise.
Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.