"as such" does not mean "therefore"

Here’s my editorial peeve for the day: people seem to have decided that “as such” is a fancier way of saying “therefore.” Not only is it not fancier; it’s also incorrect.

Here’s what the Chicago Manual has to say on the subject:

Q. This might not be a point of grammar so much as a question of style, but how would you define the usage of the phrase “as such”? Could you argue for a strict explanation of when its use may or may not be appropriate? Many thanks for tackling this one.

A. I’m glad you asked. Literature and speech abound with dangling usage of this phrase. “As such” is not a substitute for “therefore.” Rather, “such” must refer to an antecedent noun or noun phrase in order for “as such” to make grammatical sense (and yes, it’s a matter of grammar). As a test, ask yourself “as what?”

Correct: We were a gaggle of skinny, giggling adolescent girls. As such [As what? As a gaggle of girls], we were immediately drawn to the crowd of tall, goofy boys.

Correct: The matter was left to a group of indecisive ninnies. As such [As indecisive ninnies], they resorted to the toss of a coin.

Incorrect: Because of the accident, he arrived at the dock an hour late. As such [As what? No antecedent], he missed the boat and forfeited his deposit.

About these ads

40 Responses to "as such" does not mean "therefore"

  1. Ira Spiro says:

    Thank you. The use of “as such” for “therefore” is very annoying to me. I am a lawyer, and (as such) I read this error almost every working day — often in official opinions of appellate judges, even very good ones. Language must evolve, but it seems to me best that it not evolve by mistake or inept attempts to sound erudite. The very fine WSebster’s New World Dictionary, now published by Wiley, agrees with you.

  2. Pingback: PJ Brunet (pjb) 's status on Saturday, 05-Sep-09 01:38:49 UTC - Identi.ca

  3. Cindy says:

    Thanks for posting this. I chanced upon your blog and find it a useful source of information for people who needs to write well.

  4. Linda says:

    What an awesome explanation. Thank you!

  5. Cai says:

    Thank you for explaining this clearly. I’ve searched a a lot, this is the simpliest yet the best, explanation so far.

  6. Isaac says:

    I’m glad someone’s spreading the word on ‘as such’. I’ve been creating a sort of usage guide for myself, which I hopefully intend to publish one day; and I’ll say I’m glad such great tutorial resources as this article online.

  7. siamak says:

    Does any body know ? what does the word as such mean in philosophy? please give me an educated answer. thank you

  8. Ozzy says:

    Perfect !!!! Thanks a lot

  9. Elvis Stansvik says:

    I was just about to misuse it, but something felt wrong and I was pretty sure this was it. So of course I Googled. Your explanation was the first. Thanks a bunch.

    Elvis (not native speaker).

  10. mikeeT says:

    Great info, thanks!!! Now, to find out if I understood what I read, here is a section from a letter that I am working on presently: “Additionally, please allow this correspondence to serve as notification of project completion. As such, you have ten (10) days from the date of receipt of said correspondence to inspect the site for deficiencies in integrity and workmanship.” Is this a correct use of “as such”? Is the wording everywhere else OK?

    Thanks again,

    met

  11. Jo says:

    Wow, many thanks for the explanation and examples! I had planned to use the phrase in my graduate school statement of purpose, but now I know not to :).

  12. Jason says:

    I wonder if “such” can refer to the indicated reason or event??
    Take your inccorrect case as an example, may I say:

    Because of the accident, he arrived at the dock an hour late. As such, this incident made him uncomfortable during the trip.

  13. S. Z. Haider says:

    First ever explaination that I found of this overused phrase which racked my nevers every time I heard or read it.

  14. Frank says:

    No, this is NOT correct: “Additionally, please allow this correspondence to serve as notification of project completion. As such, you have ten (10) days from the date of receipt of said correspondence to inspect the site for deficiencies in integrity and workmanship.”

    Because “As such” is standing in for “Therefore.”

    If you substitute the actual antecedent for “such” in the sentence, you’d be saying “As a notification, you have ten days to inspect the site …” Obviously YOU are not “a notification.” Therefore as written the sentence makes no logical sense, even though it may be (sloppily) understood.

  15. Frank says:

    Actually in that first sentence “As such” is not standing in for ANYTHING. Even “Therefore” doesn’t make sense!

  16. Frank says:

    (Yikes, “second sentence.”)

  17. Moribuns says:

    I’m not usually one to bicker about prescriptive grammar but doesn’t the ‘incorrect’ example in the first post possess the antecedent noun phrase: ‘he arrived at the dock an hour late,’ where ‘as’ functions as ‘because.’ This would make it correct.

    In(?)correct: Because of the accident, he arrived at the dock an hour late. As such [As what? No antecedent], he missed the boat and forfeited his deposit.

  18. Ty Lee says:

    I have been using “as such” a few times ‘incorrectly’. But as language evolves and since so many people are using it ‘incorrectly’, would it be possible that one day it will mean “in view of this, therefore”?

    • It’s not evolution if it’s not adaptive. “As such” has its own perfectly good usage, and there are ready substitutes for all the incorrect usages. This is a mindless affectation that will soon die out.

  19. Arn says:

    I completely disagree. The antecedent to which “as such” refers may be the implicit “the facts”. As in, “with the stated facts being such as they are, …”, which IS equivalent to “therefore”.

    The problem with situations like this is that people automatically assume that their own narrow interpretation is the only permissible one. That is not how language works and there is no reason it should work that way. The only reasons that sort of grammar construct should be “unacceptable” is if a new usage and an older accepted (“accepted” does not mean “exclusive”) usage are mutually contradictory, or if a usage cannot be reasonable construed to make sense.

    I guess you have to do what you can to convince yourself that you’re better than other people. Meh.

  20. Arn says:

    Ah, of course, “Your comment is awaiting moderation.” Censoring dissenters is definitely the fast path to being correct.

    • Neal says:

      First, Arn, you jumped the gun with your second comment — comments often await moderation, and your first comment was indeed approved. (Perhaps if you had “moderated” your impatience and snarkiness….)

      As to the substance of your comment, that you “completely” disagree with the Chicago Manual doesn’t change the fact that it’s correct, any more than the common misuse of “as such” makes that misuse correct. The key is in the definitions of “such” — all variations of “of the type previously [or about to be] mentioned.” Where “such” refers to “a young girl,” it fits that definition; where it refers to “he was late to the dance,” it doesn’t.

  21. ghost1924 says:

    thanks for this explanation. I would like to give you an example, because i don’t know if the same rule is present here. ” It’s not a party as such, just a few friends getting together.”
    Is it the same use here or this is different?
    thank you

  22. starkwoman says:

    I am a retired university Professor of Psychology. As such [ ;-)], I read a great many term papers, and listened to a great many presentations, in which and during which students appeared to be attempting to appear more erudite by using ‘as such’ rather than ‘consequently’ or ‘therefore’. No amount of corrective feedback seemed to be effective in mending the error of their ways. Every time that I encountered this error, it felt like I was chewing aluminium foil. In a similar vein, for some reason, they also seemed to feel that ‘The researchers put forth the following hypothesis: …’ was more erudite than ‘The researchers hypothesised that …’.

    By the way, does anyone know who killed the adverb? I’m sick and tired of hearing adjectives used as if they were adverbs!

  23. starkwoman says:

    With pleasure (or should I say with displeasure?).

    ‘She executed the task perfect.’, instead of ‘She executed the task perfectly.’
    or
    ‘He slept sound.’, instead of ‘He slept soundly.’
    or
    ‘She ran quick to the finish line.’ instead of ‘She ran quickly to the finish line.’

    I am similarly annoyed by the misuse of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘myself’, and ‘her’ or ‘him’.
    For instance: ‘Her and I went to the concert.’;
    or
    ‘Nick and myself feel elated.’;
    or
    ‘Umberto and me are “an item”.’

    My sisters (the other two starkwomen) and I have always enjoyed playing with language, but always deliberately and from an informed position. One of my all-time favourite books is that by H.W. Fowler. I find his humour subtle, dry, and hilarious. On many occasions, I have mentioned this book to students and, over the course of many decades, only encountered one student who knew what I was talking about and who had a similar appreciation of his work.

    Thank you for your query.

  24. Majola says:

    Oh my! You all sound so irritated (although chewing aluminum foil might make one so). Where is the spirit of teaching and fun? It might help to sit under a tree, read a book in the sun, and be reminded of how wonderful language actually is. I believe that content overshadows structure and it is easy to miss a great story or bypass a profound message when you focus on everything that is wrong with what was written. Take care all and have an inspiring year.

    • Magus says:

      brilliant!! amen . substance/content trumps “form” – although, granted, without sufficiently accurate form, content looses all value and meaning.

      “Our language ought to be correct. If what is said is not what is meant, what ought to be done remains undone”

      However illuminating this tutorial on “as such” may be, I suspect that it is “much ado about nothing”, and less important than dotting i’s and crossing t’s…….trivial…..

  25. Andrew says:

    So if you were to qualify “as such” as a part of speech or grammar term, how would you classify it? Is it a pronoun since it has an antecedent?

  26. Magus says:

    Starkwoman:, you said “appeared to be attempting to appear” when perhaps, (forgive me for being a Word-nazi), this would have been better “attempted to appear”……..

    Physician heal Thyself?
    Let those who are without fault (ie perfect) cast the first stone…be judgmental.
    There is room for improvement all around – must feedback be so pompous?

    • starkwoman says:

      reply to Magus: Um, no. I meant ‘appeared to be attempting to appear’ … my choice of words was deliberate. I actually have no idea whether or not students were attempting to appear more erudite; it just came across that way to me. However, you might prefer ‘seemed to be attempting to appear’?

      I don’t mind you being a word-Nazi. In fact, I appreciate it and, as a bit of a word-Nazi myself, it would be hypocritical of me to criticise you for being one. However, couldn’t we find a less inflammatory term than word-Nazi for those who appreciate form as well as content? (Speaking of inflammatory, one of the reasons that I haven’t bothered to reply to previous comments that my innocent question generated was because many respondents were so mean-spirited, insulting, and bullying. [And I note that there are now at least two more such replies.] I really hadn’t expected that kind of behaviour on this blog site. More fool me.)

      My suspicion regarding the root of this problem (the issue of the death of the English language, that is–not the bullying) lies in the relatively new (i.e., within the past 30 years) education policies of never failing a student in elementary school or high school, because it might damage their delicate little egos, and of giving marks for what the teacher thinks that the student might have intended to communicate. It is then a bit of a shock to students in universities when they encounter professors or instructors who refuse to play this guessing game. Of course, these days, many of the younger instructors were brought up in that educational system …

      I know that some are of the opinion that language is a living thing (which, of course, is mis-attribution of agency to a noun incapable of agency) and is constantly evolving. My point, here, is that implicit in the term ‘evolve’ is ‘progression’ and what seems to be happening is ‘regression’.

      I am not American. I also come from what seems to be a by-gone era. So I developed in a different culture than many who contribute to this site. Maybe we can respect our differences.

      Although I am a scientist, I have always had a love of languages, helped along, no doubt, by having taken French as a second language from Grade 3 all the way through the second year of my undergraduate university education, and Latin all the way through high school and the first two years of university. It was exciting to be able to think in another language and to observe the subtleties in perceptual differences that result. I read for pleasure and I write for pleasure. It saddens me that so few university students enjoy either of those activities of late.

      • Magus says:

        Very nice. Erudite. Intelligent. Respect.
        Ok. I hear you.
        Yet there is some redundancy or tautology in your expression.
        The phrases “in my view” or “seemed” or “appeared” go without saying, for obviously the author is speaking from his or her perspective and opinion.

      • starkwoman says:

        Thanks, Magus.

        It was in the interest of clarity/precision, that I used those terms. I wanted to make clear the fact that I hadn’t conducted any research into this issue and had not read anyone else’s research into this issue, that I only suspected that the students had, somewhere along the line, been taught that this mis-use was more erudite–much as I suspect that, again somewhere along the line, they had been told that ‘forth’ is more erudite than ‘forward’.

        Now that I am retired, and so longer plagued by the mis-use of English on the part of university students, I amuse myself by collecting mis-uses in the popular media. You might enjoy a few from my collection: ‘when you talk to her, it just falls on deaf eyes‘; ‘wrought with danger’ (for ‘fraught with danger’; ‘humilify for ‘humiliate‘ (from the context, I assumed that he hadn’t meant ‘humidify‘).

  27. starkwoman says:

    re: form as well as content. I meant form as well as content

  28. John says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you… I thought I was imaging the “As such” plague

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 305 other followers

%d bloggers like this: