Are Since and Because Interchangeable?

 

Do since and because mean the same thing? What exactly are the differences between the words?

Let’s look at their definitions.

since: from a past time until now; after a time in the past; before the present time
because: for the reason that
—Merriam-Webster

Though in the definition listed above since appears to relate only to time, in reality, people use it the same as because to imply cause.

Notice the similarities in these two sentences:

Since he ate cookies, Charlie is a happy boy.
Because he ate cookies, Charlie is a happy boy.

In the sentences, both since and because are helping us show the cause of Charlie’s happiness: eating cookies.

However, using since and because interchangeably can cause problems when it is unclear whether since is referring to time or to cause.

 

Notice this sentence:

Since he slayed the dragon, Charlie got measles.

In this sentence, it is unclear whether Charlie got measles as a direct result of (caused by) killing the dragon or if he simply contracted measles in the period of time after killing the dragon (not caused by the killing).

If we used because in the sentence above, we would know the dragon slaying directly caused his measles. As it is written with since, the causation is unclear.

To avoid confusion, it is best to limit since to time elements and not use it interchangeably with because. Because is the best choice to indicate directly the reason something happened.

 

Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of editing, coaching, and social media packages.

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Follow Through vs. Follow-Through

follow through (verb): to press on in an activity or process especially to a conclusion
follow-through (noun): the act or an instance of following through
—Merriam-Webster

These two words can be tricky because one uses a hyphen and one does not. As a verb, follow through is two words with no hyphen. As a noun, follow-through is one word with a hyphen between the two parts.

Here are examples of follow through used as a verb:

The lizard will follow through with his plans of world domination.
Saul followed through with his idea of starting a clothing store for lizards.

 

 

Here are examples of follow-through used as a noun:

The lizard has lots of goals, but his follow-through is poor.
Denise’s follow-through earned her a promotion.

Hint: If you are wondering which word to use, look at the role it plays in the sentence. And remember: If it’s a verb, follow through has no hyphen. If it’s a noun, follow-through has a hyphen.

Quiz
Fill in either follow through or follow-through in the blanks. The answers are below.

1. Lizzy has good _______, and her organizational skills help.
2. Sally keeps saying she will start writing her book, but she doesn’t _______.
3. One criterion for the new position is level of _______.
4. Tina wants to become an accountant, and she knows she will ________ on that dream.

Answers:
1. follow-through 2. follow through 3. follow-through 4. follow through

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Quotation Marks Within Quotation Marks

When you’re working with only one set of quotation marks, using them is simple. In American English, just surround the sentence or words in double quote marks.

Example:
Hannibal said, “I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.”

Quotes within quotes
When you have a quote within a quote, begin and end the main quote with double quotation marks. Surround the quote within a quote with single quotation marks.

Example:
Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’”

Note that the period goes before all three final quotation marks and that there is no space between the single quote mark and the double quote marks.

Here’s how it would look if the main quote continues after the quote within a quote:

Ronald said, “I can’t believe Hannibal said, ‘I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice chianti.’ That really creeped me out.”

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Works of art
If a quote has reference to a title of a work of art that requires quotation marks (and not italics), the title also uses single quotation marks. (For a refresher on which require quote marks and which require italics, click here.)

Example:
Hannibal said, “I heard Ronald’s favorite song is ‘Sympathy for the Devil’ by the Rolling Stones.”

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Tools for Effective Writing: Bullet and Numbered Lists

pexels-photo-1329296.jpeg

Numbered lists help people take in information. Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

When dealing with complex or dense information, breaking down text into bulleted or numbered lists eases reading and helps readers better scan and comprehend information, which leads better retention.

Let’s look at an example. Here is a typical style of paragraph found in corporate writings:

To be a productive employee, you must keep your workstation clean and organized, not spend excessive time watching cat videos on YouTube, keep chatting with coworkers to a minimum, and arrive promptly to all meetings. There will be consequences if your boss finds you to not be productive. First, you will receive a written warning. If unproductive behavior continues, your boss will have an official review of your work activities. The next step is a three-week unpaid leave of absence. The final step is feeding you to the alligators.

Here is how this information would look when broken down into a bulleted and numbered list. Note the headers in bold to draw attention to the information listed below.

To be a productive employee, you must:
• keep your workstation clean and organized
• not spend excessive time watching cat videos on YouTube
• keep chatting with coworkers to a minimum
• arrive promptly to all meetings

There will be consequences if your boss finds you to not be productive. Beginning with the first consequence, they are:
1. written warning
2. official review of your work activities
3. three-week unpaid leave of absence
4. feeding you to the alligators

In the second example, the reader can more directly access the important information because it is not in a cluttered, tightly packed paragraph.

More white space
Another positive aspect of using bulleted and numbered lists is the increased amount of white space this creates on the page. If you are reading a full page or more that is loaded with important information you need to know, looking at a page that appears uncluttered, due to the lists, makes the thought of getting through the material feel less daunting. If you are the one writing the material, the added white space results in more people actually reading your writing (because they feel it will take less time and the page looks less intimidating) and thus increased comprehension and retention of the information.

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Erin Servais is the founder of Dot and Dash, LLC, an author-services company focusing on women writers and offering a range of book editing, author coaching, and social media packages.

Sign up for the Dot and Dash newsletter to get writing tips and tricks and exclusive deals.  

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