We think in terms of cause and effect. Our brains like sequences: first this occurred, then this occurred, and then finally this happened.

Ambiguity is harder for our brains to sort through and figure out.

Stop using “as” when you mean “because”

by | Sep 11, 2015

YOUR BRAIN ON CAUSE AND EFFECT

We think in terms of cause and effect. Our brains like sequences: first this occurred, then this occurred, and then finally this happened.

Ambiguity is harder for our brains to sort through and figure out. When a bunch of events are occurring at the same time, it feels chaotic, out of control, and hard to organize.

You want your audience to be able to see a sequence of events, especially when you’re explaining technical details to people who don’t understand (or don’t really care about) the complex details of your industry.

In short, make cause and effect easy to follow.

THE VIRTUES OF “BECAUSE”

“Because” is your ally in this fight. It’s a simple word that immediately indicates that one event has spawned another.

However, I’m increasingly coming across people using “as” instead of “because.”

I suspect writers fear that they are repeating “because” too much. So, they reach out for a synonym and end up replacing a clear word with a murkier one.

A REAL EXAMPLE FROM A CLIENT’S QUARTERLY INVESTMENT LETTER:

Original: Historical precedence may not apply to the current situation as the gap between short-term and long-term unemployment is much greater than usual.

Revision:  Historical precedence may not apply to the current situation because the gap between short-term and long-term unemployment is much greater than usual.

“Because” is just the better choice here. It’s a good lesson that synonyms are often false friends.

AS HAS ITS PLACE

Use “as” for reference—“As she said….

You can also use “as” to indicate simultaneity: “As I walked out of the house….”

But stop using it for cause and effect.

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