The expression of course looks innocent, but it can create problems.
Writers and speakers casually insert the phrase to indicate that something is obvious or self-evident. In most cases, it’s perfectly acceptable. But in others, it can sound insulting or patronizing.
The Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style, by Paul W. Lovinger, has a good explanation of the trouble these two words can cause:
“A writer attaches an ‘of course’ to an obscure fact or arguable proposition, thereby implying to a number of readers that they are dolts for not knowing what the writer knows.”
Here are a few examples, found online, demonstrating how of course may presume too much or make unintended insinuations:
- “Of course, we trust the wisdom of the bankruptcy court in supervising such a delicate endeavor.”
- “Of course, the premier event of the racing year is Pimlico’s Preakness Stakes…”
- “The Army is formally stating that of course combat is continuing in Iraq…”
Lovinger notes other common phrases that present similar risks of offense or condescension: as everyone knows, it goes without saying, for the simple reason that, and assorted variants.
So should you exercise care with this expression? Of course!