Constructive Conjunctions: “As”, “since”, and”because”

grammar-I-and-meToday’s Wednesday email from contained a profitable lesson in the proper use of some familiar conjunctions – “as,” “since,” and “because” – showing the importance of stressing the reason for something and the result of something in our sentence structure.

Here’s today’s grammar lesson (our second this month!) – read and learn!


Tackling More Tricky Word Choices:
As, Because, and Since

American English is a rich, expressive language. At the same time, it includes words that sometimes appear to be alike but have slight distinctions. Without recognizing those subtleties, we might use one word when we mean another.

As, because, and since are three conjunctions that introduce subordinate clauses (those that cannot stand alone in sentences) connecting a result and a reason. A closer understanding of these words helps us write with greater clarity and emphasis in achieving this.

We use because when we want to focus more on the reason. We use as and since when we wish to center on the result.

Most commonly, the because clause emphasizing the reason ends the sentence; the as or since clause stressing the result starts the sentence. 


Result: She got the promotion over four other candidates.
Reason: She knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the reason with because clause: She got the promotion over four other candidates because she knew the system best.

Sentence emphasizing the result with as clause: As she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

Sentence emphasizing the result with since clause: Since she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

The placement of the because, as, or since clause can be changed in the sentences above. Some writers might contend that only the shifted because clause maintains effective fluency while the repositioned as and since clauses sound more stilted. Moving the clauses will also change the emphasis by switching the order of the result and the reason.

Because she knew the system best, she got the promotion over four other candidates.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, as she knew the system best.

She got the promotion over four other candidates, since she knew the system best.

Because is more common than as or since in both writing and speaking, suggesting we typically emphasize reasons more than results. As and since also are considered more formal in usage.

Looking at the details of these conjunctions polishes another tool in our quest to be writers of precision and eloquence.

Published in: on February 21, 2018 at 10:31 PM  Leave a Comment  

Reading the Christian Classics: Milton’s Epic Poem – L. Ryken

GuidetoClassics-LRykenOver the last few years we have been working our way slowly through Leland Ryken’s recent book, A Christian Guide to the Classics (Crossway, 2015). Of late, we have been in chapters 7 and 8 where the author treats the great classics of literature that may be identified as Christian.

Having completed our look at Ryken’s thoughts in chap.7, we turn to some of his thoughts in chap.8. Here he continues to consider various categories of Christian literature, including one that he classifies as “the Christianized secular text.” This is how he explains it with a true Christian classic – Milton’s Paradise Lost:

…There are some Christian classics that were intended by their authors to serve the polemical or argumentative purpose of refuting a non-Christian tradition. The technical term for this is intertext – a situation in which a work is designed as an interaction with an already-existing text or body of literature in such a way that the meaning of the enterprise can be viewed as existing between the two texts. The dialogue or refutation is an important part of the meaning.

Milton’s Paradise Lost is the best example. Milton participated in a tradition that began relatively early in the Middle Ages to determine how the Christian faith related to the classical tradition in which the authors and readers had been educated. There is evidence within Paradise Lost that Milton intended his epic to refute the epic tradition that he inherited, not at the level of epic form but at the level of ideas and values.

paradise lost-milton

That last point Ryken explains and develops further in the next paragraphs:

The classical epic tradition was humanistic in orientation. Its heroes were not irreligious, nor were the gods absent from the action, but the heroes achieved their feats mainly through human self-reliance. The goals that these heroes pursued were earthly fame, success, and empire. The epic feat was winning a battle, and it was axiomatic in this tradition that the crucial events of history happened on the battlefield.

Milton introduces aspects of this into his poem only to expose their deficiency. For example, he introduces a boastful warrior – Satan – only to show how evil he is. Overall, Milton’s anti-epic strategy… consisted of replacing the epic hero with the Christian saint as hero, and replacing military values with pastoral and domestic values. Milton made the garden rather than the battlefield the scene of his epic feat. And what is that feat? Eating an apple – not an act of glory but of shame, thereby exploding classical and humanistic illusions of human greatness. The setting for the epic feat was not the battlefield but the human soul, and it was not a physical act but a spiritual one.

And so Ryken finishes this point with these thoughts:

Epics always represent the author’s verdict on what constitutes heroic (exemplary) action. Homer assumed that human self-exertion and earthly success constitute heroic action. Milton’s version of heroic action is seen in Adam and Eve’s virtuous life in Paradise and consists of devotion to God, perfect married companionship, harmony with nature, contentedness, and living the simple life. These virtues are virtually the opposite of the virtues of classical epic [pp.74-76].

A Hymn for Christmas Day

A Hymn For Christmas Day

Almighty Framer of the Skies!
O let our pure devotion rise,
Like Incense in thy Sight!
Wrapt in impenetrable Shade
The Texture of our Souls were made
Till thy Command gave light.
The Sun of Glory gleam’d the Ray,
Refin’d the Darkness into Day,
And bid the Vapours fly;
Impell’d by his eternal Love
He left his Palaces above
To cheer our gloomy Sky.

How shall we celebrate the day,
When God appeared in mortal clay,
The mark of worldly scorn;
When the Archangel’s heavenly Lays,
Attempted the Redeemer’s Praise
And hail’d Salvation’s Morn!

A Humble Form the Godhead wore,
The Pains of Poverty he bore,
To gaudy Pomp unknown;
Tho’ in a human walk he trod
Still was the Man Almighty God
In Glory all his own.

Despis’d, oppress’d, the Godhead bears
The Torments of this Vale of tears;
Nor bade his Vengeance rise;
He saw the Creatures he had made,
Revile his Power, his Peace invade;
He saw with Mercy’s Eyes.

How shall we celebrate his Name,
Who groan’d beneath a Life of shame
In all Afflictions tried!
The Soul is raptured to concieve
A Truth, which Being must believe,
The God Eternal died.

My Soul exert thy Powers, adore,
Upon Devotion’s plumage sar
To celebrate the Day;
The God from whom Creation sprung
Shall animate my grateful Tongue;
From him I’ll catch the Lay!

Thomas Chatterton, 1752-1770 (This amazing poem was written when Thomas was but eleven years old.)
Published in: on December 20, 2017 at 11:13 PM  Leave a Comment  

“Bisogna saper leggere”: “You must know how to read.”

JLukacsA few week’s ago, “The Federalist” in its weekend edition (what they call their “longreads” feature) linked to this powerful essay by ninety-four year old professor, historian, and author John Lukacs.

In “Surrounded by Books” Lukacs writes about the influence books and reading had on him from his childhood in Budapest, Hungary and subsequently throughout his life in the United States. He refers to the modern age as the “Age of Books,” and I tend to agree with him.

But he also writes with pain about the decline of books and reading – and words and writing. But he writes with hope, ending his essay with these closing thoughts – good food for the mind on this Thursday night:

What Cicero was supposed to have said 2,000 years ago (“All I want is a book and a garden”) and a literate Englishman 200 years ago (“A study full of books is worth more than a purse full of money”) were statements from a long-faded past. But it was not until the end of the 20th century that the disappearance of large numbers of readers finally led to drastic changes in the publishing of all kinds of reading matter, very much including books. The massive influence of pictures and images had already preceded that (the movies). But the death of the Age of Books, and of newspapers and magazines, was, indeed, television, followed by the Internet. Already by the early 1990’s, many weeklies, magazines, journals, and quarterlies ceased to exist. Entire large and traditional publishing houses went out of business. Others cut their staffs to minimums. Bookstores began to disappear. In most schools there still was a minority of good students. Even they read very little.

All of these transformations may suggest one momentous change: the declining effect of words. “In the beginning was the Word”—and at the end of an age? The incredible spread and availability of communications holds little promise, because communications are only instruments of transmissions. Meanwhile, a great and deep consequence of the declining human respect for, and therefore the function of, words is the increasing evidence of the weakening of attention, seen in more and more spheres of life.

Still, history is unpredictable. God writes straight with crooked lines. And things are never quite as bad (or as good) as they seem. Books will always exist. Jefferson’s category of the educated minority, on whose existence the prospects of civilized mankind depend, is no longer enough. To educated we need to add interested. The very impulse of human attention depends on human interest, a quality often involved with humility, with our capacity of seeing beyond ourselves. This awareness sometimes issues from reading.

In 1955, Harold Nicolson wrote, “I am confident that in coming generations the proportion of uninteresting people will be much diminished, whereas the proportion of interesting people will increase.” In 1950, the great English bibliophile Holbrook Jackson (borrowing from Aldous Huxley) declared, “the proper study of mankind is books.” I am uncertain about the first of these statements, but not about the second. Now consider that Jacob Burckhardt and Johan Huizinga, two of the greatest historians of the Age of Books, wrote their most famous histories less for professional academic historians than for what in their lifetime could still be regarded as an educated and interested public. And when on occasion someone asked Burckhardt how best to study history, the great man answered in three words: “Bisogna saper leggere.”

“You must know how to read.”

Published in: on December 14, 2017 at 10:52 PM  Leave a Comment  

The Reformation Printer: Robert Estienne (1503–1559) | Desiring God

Today’s Desiring God Reformation 500 post (Day 24 of the “Here We Stand” series on Reformation heroes) is about a unique contributor to the Reformation cause – the Protestant printer Robert Estienne.

We know how significant printing was for the spread of the Reformation gospel – the printing of the Bible as well as the minor and major works of the Reformers.

But we should also remember that it took those who were sympathetic to and supporters of the Protestant cause to be willing to risk their lives to publish Reformation literature, especially the Word of God. Estienne was one of those whom God raised up. And what a work he did as God’s servant!

Below are a few snippets of this focus on Estienne the Protestant printer, penned by Matt Crutchmer (I added the image of Calvin’s Institutes). Read or listen to the rest of this important story at the link below.

Estienne was not only a significant printer on the Continent during the early- to mid-sixteenth century, but he was a scholar of the Bible and classical literature as well. While working in Paris during the rule of King Francis I, such was his skill that Estienne was named “Royal Typographer”: the king’s printer in Hebrew and Latin in 1539, and then the king’s printer in Greek in 1542.

…In Geneva, now openly supporting the Protestant movement, Estienne set up his press and became the printer par excellence of the Reformation cause. His 1553 French Bible continued the Reformation emphasis on lay reading of Scripture in vernacular languages, and his editions of Calvin’s Institutes and Commentaries, with other Protestant writings, all served the growing movement in its desire to hear clearly and be governed by the Scriptures.

The 1559 edition of the Institutes was “the most comprehensive summary of Protestant doctrine during the Reformation” (John Calvin’s “Institutes”, 219), and arguably the most important volume to arise in the Reformation, as evidenced by its translation into six (perhaps seven) other languages by 1624. Estienne’s edition, effortless to read and beautiful even by today’s standards, played a large role in the growth of Reformation churches during the sixteenth century.

Source: The Ink: Robert Estienne (1503–1559)The Ink | Desiring God

The Libraries of Famous Men: Louis L’Amour | The Art of Manliness

It has been some time since we posted an item from this ongoing series from “The Art of Manliness,” (cf. this post) but with their recent posting of a new one on “The Libraries of Famous Men” we are prompted to do so too.

This “AOM” post highlights the library of the noted Western author Louis L’Amour, of whom I am sure many of our male readers (and their sons – I had one who loved to read his books!) are familiar.

Below is a portion of the extended article on L’Amour, his personal library, and his books. A familiar story-line emerges from these library articles: famous men who wrote good stories were first of all good readers – which explains their own extensive libraries. Read on, and be inspired to build your own manly library – and, then, perhaps you too may become a writer. 🙂

Though he’ll rarely be praised for writing beautiful or lyrical prose, L’Amour is one of the top 25 bestselling authors of all time, and when you ask grandpas — yes, as a whole category — about their favorite authors, he seems to almost universally top their lists. L’Amour writes with a realistic quality that isn’t easily matched in the genre, balancing both the romance and realities of Western life. His action scenes are superb, but more striking are his lifelike depictions of the landscape, the horses and horsemanship, the movements and habits of American Indians. Few have ever researched and truly lived the West like L’Amour.

As a reader, L’Amour’s only match may have been Theodore Roosevelt himself. The Western writer had a library of over 10,000 books, and averaged reading 100-120 books per year — “reading approximately thirty books a year on the West in its many aspects” both for pleasure and in order to stay on top of his writing game.

And it wasn’t just books either — he regularly read magazines, newspapers, and even small town pamphlets and brochures. He noted that it was in those smaller collections of the printed word where one got into the nitty gritty of understanding things and that “They are often valuable additions to the larger pages of history.”

I found this section of the article interesting too. Be inspired to read!

Louis L’Amour’s Philosophy of Reading

1. Reading is your education. Even though Louis didn’t graduate high school, and his only college degrees came much later in life in the honorary form, he received quite an education, entirely of his own doing. He realized that to be successful, he would need to be educated, and that college was not in his cards. So he pursued an autodidactic curriculum of his own volition:

“The idea of education has been so tied to schools, universities, and professors that many assume there is no other way, but education is available to anyone within reach of a library.”

Source: The Libraries of Famous Men: Louis L’Amour | The Art of Manliness


Published in: on October 6, 2017 at 9:21 AM  Leave a Comment  

How Are You—Good, Well, or Fine?

As we start a new month, it’s time for our latest grammar check item, compliments of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. This time it revolves around the words “good, well, and fine.”

How are you doing anyway? Well, read on and find out how you should answer.

Periodically we still receive inquiries about when we should use the adjectives good, well, and fine. We, perhaps as you do, also still hear and read these words used incorrectly.

We addressed the subject of Good vs. Well in 2007. We thought now would be a good time to review the state of these words, especially now that fine has joined the group.

We’ll first address what each word is made to convey.

Good is an adjective meaning “pious or virtuous” (a good person); “satisfactory in quality, quantity, or degree” (a good baseball player); “excellent, proper, or fit” (a good professional background for the job); “well-behaved” (a good child in regard to manners); “kind or beneficent” (a good thing to do); and “worthy or honorable” (of good standing in the community).

Well is most often regarded as an adverb modifying an action. Meanings can include “in a good or satisfactory manner” (He does his job well); “thoroughly or carefully” (We listened to her well); “in a moral or proper manner” (She conducts herself well); “commendably or excellently” (I’d refer to your job as one well done); “with justice or reason” (I couldn’t well turn away the child in need); “adequately and sufficiently” (Prepare well before your exam); and “to a considerable extent or degree” (They spent well over the budget).

However, well can also serve as an adjective: “in good health; sound in body and mind” (He is a well man because of his exercise); “pleasing or good” (All is well with her); “fitting or gratifying” (I think it’s all the more well he didn’t join the debate); “in a satisfactory position; well-off” (He is well as he is). 

Fine likewise can function as either an adverb or an adjective.

As an adjective, it can mean “of high or superior quality” (a fine wine); “excellent or admirable” (a fine song); “consisting of minute particles” (fine grains of sand); “very thin or slender” (fine hair); “keen or sharp, as a tool” (a fine knife for carving); and “delicate in texture” (fine bed and bath linens).

As an adverb, fine can mean “in an excellent manner” (She performed fine on the test) and “very small” (He writes so fine I need glasses to read his letters).

Note that current usage and dictionaries allow fine to serve as finely; as adverbs, they are synonymous and interchangeable (He writes so fine/finely I need glasses to read his letters).

That’s a lot of ways we can go with three short, simple words. So which is (or are) correct in answering a basic question such as “How are you?”

This inquiry typically aims at our sense of physical or emotional well-being (i.e., our general condition). We’ll address it according to our definitions in context.

If we say “I am good,” we are conveying we are virtuous, satisfactory, proper, kind, worthy, or well behaved.

If we respond “I am well,” we are often saying we are in good health, of sound body and mind, or well-off in general. If we slightly adjust our response to “I am doing well,” we can also mean we are conducting ourselves in a good or proper manner; thoroughly, carefully, adequately, or commendably; or with justice or reason.

How about if we say “I am fine”? The dictionary dictates we’re communicating we are excellent, admirable, or of high quality if answering in adjective form. If responding adverbially, we’re saying we are existing in an excellent manner.

Interpreting the original question as applying to our general condition, we can deduce that “I am well” and “I am fine” would be suitable, accurate answers by their definitions.

The same would apply if the question were cast as “How are you doing?” If we respond “I am doing good,” in spoken language, many people will understand what we mean. However, technically, we also could be implying we’re doing something beneficial. This is where writing allows us to be even more precise by using “I am fine” or “I am well.”

The debate will carry on in common usage and stylebooks. The AP Stylebook, for example, advises that good should not be used as an adverb except in a sentence such as “I am [or feel] good,” in which case we can be saying we are in good health. It also explains that using the adverb well in “I feel well” could mean either “I feel in good health” or “My sense of touch is good,” in essence suggesting feel can muddy meaning. 

Goodwell, and fine will remain interchanging parts in language—especially spoken—including as answers to “How are you?” For the careful writer and astute grammarian, however, we champion using the words as the dictionary designs them to be.

Source: How Are You—Good, Well, or Fine? – Grammar & Punctuation | The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Published in: on October 3, 2017 at 10:59 PM  Leave a Comment  

Lost Latin Commentary on the Gospels Rediscovered after 1,500 years

This special story was posted at The Conversation last week (August 23, 2017, by Hugh Houghton) and caught my attention. Though it may not be exciting to many, it is to me, since anything from the realm of books is of interest – especially rare, lost treasures such as this Latin commentary from the fourth century.

And yes, you may find scanned images of this rare book online as well as an English translation of it now available (see links in the story below).

Below you will find the beginning of the story; read the rest and visit the links at the link at the end.

The earliest Latin commentary on the Gospels, lost for more than 1,500 years, has been rediscovered and made available in English for the first time. The extraordinary find, a work written by a bishop in northern Italy, Fortunatianus of Aquileia, dates back to the middle of the fourth century.

The biblical text of the manuscript is of particular significance, as it predates the standard Latin version known as the Vulgate and provides new evidence about the earliest form of the Gospels in Latin.

Despite references to this commentary in other ancient works, no copy was known to survive until Dr Lukas Dorfbauer, a researcher from the University of Salzburg, identified Fortunatianus’ text in an anonymous manuscript copied around the year 800 and held in Cologne Cathedral Library. The manuscripts of Cologne Cathedral Library were made available online in 2002.

Source: Lost Latin commentary on the Gospels rediscovered after 1,500 years thanks to digital technology

Becoming part of the “bigger story” – A. McGrath

Lunch-with-Lewis-McGrathLewis deftly shows how the stories of the individual children – particularly Lucy, who is in many ways the central human character of the series [Chronicles of Narnia] – become shaped by the story of Aslan. Lucy’s love for Aslan is expressed in her commitment to him. She wants to do what he wants; she wants her story to reflect who he is. As a result, Lewis speaks of Lucy feeling ‘lion-strength’ flowing within her. She has become part of the story of Aslan. But – and this is a hugely important ‘but’ – she has not lost her own identity. Her story remains her own. However, her story now makes more sense because Lucy has gained a sense of value and meaning. By embracing the story of Aslan as central to her story, she has gained a new sense of identity and purpose.

This McGrath further explains biblically in the next paragraph:

Lewis here develops a New Testament theme which has a long history of exploration within the Christian faith. It is stated with particular clarity in Paul’s letter to the Galatians: ‘I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:19-20). Faith involves putting to death the old self and rising to a new life. We do not lose our individuality; rather, we gain a new identity while still remaining individuals who are loved by God. In other words, we become new individuals without ceasing to be individuals.

And then he shows again how this works out in the Narnia series:

Lewis reworks this theme in his Chronicles of Narnia. …Lucy and the other children realise there is a ‘bigger story,’ and long to become part of it. And they die to themselves, in that they relocate and recontextualise their own stories within this ‘grand narrative.’ They die to themselves, and live for Aslan. They surrender a self-centred story, and replace it with an Aslan-centred story. This not only makes more sense of things, it also gives them purpose, value, and meaning.

Taken from If I Had Lunch With C.S. Lewis: Exploring the Ideas of C.S. Lewis by Alistair McGrath (Tyndale, 2014), a Kindle book I am continuing to read this summer. This is part of chapter 3, “A Story-Shaped World,” where McGrath treats “C.S. Lewis and the Importance of Stories.”

At the beginning of this chapter the author quotes Lewis in The Horse and His Boy: “Child,” said the Voice [of Aslan], ‘I am telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”

Published in: on August 9, 2017 at 7:23 AM  Leave a Comment  

Summer Grammar Check! Verb-Car Passengers (Those Important Particles)

hero-blue-bookIn a recent post verbs were featured once again, only this time what are called verbal particles. Or, continuing the car/driving figure, they are referred to as “verb-car passengers.”

So today, as a follow-up to that previous post on verbs, we feature this one. Because, yes, though it is the middle of summer, we must still keep our grammar straight. No grammatical slouching allowed! Buckle-up, here we go!

Understanding Verb Particles

As noted in a recent GrammarBook e-newsletter article, verbs form both the engine and the steering wheel driving our language. They determine the direction and speed of a sentence.

Sometimes, we’ll spot other words riding with them in the passenger seat. They’re not verbs, but they still attach themselves with seat belts secured. We accept and use those words because we know the main verb needs them for where we want to go in expressing ourselves.

These verb-car passengers are referred to as verb particles. Verb particles are the add-ons in verb phrases with idiomatic meanings—i.e., their definition is not obvious from the words creating the phrase.

Consider a sentence such as “She looked up the number in her cell phone’s contact list.” The verb is “looked.” The verb particle is “up.” A literal, non-idiomatic reading of the words alone would lead us to think she was physically looking up, perhaps toward the sky or a ceiling. Idiomatically, however, we understand she is retrieving the number from her phone.

Some other common verb particles are “in,” “off,” “down,” “over,” and “out,” as used in the following examples:

Facing constituent pressure, the governor gave in to the Senate’s proposed legislation.
Would you please break off a piece of that chocolate bar for me?
Analysts agree the company’s bold marketing campaign will beat down the competition.
That’s a tough question. Let me mull over my answer for a while.
Will you be checking out of your room soon?

Here are several more verbs that include particles to achieve their meaning:

bog down shape up
break away single out
burn down sleep in
flip out sum up
head out wind up
hold up wrap up

As shown here, the verb particle is often needed to convey the right idea. At the same time, we need to watch for particles that seem like they belong but make the phrase a tautology—e.g., continue on, close down. These examples would not lose meaning or clarity without the particle and thus are not idiomatic.

In certain other cases, a particle might create a tautology, but we still need it for proper writing and speech. One such instance involves the verb “sit,” which by definition does not need the particle “down” for clarity. However, imagine using “sit” instead of “sit down” when addressing a person instead of a dog.

It’s always easier to use and ride with a particle in your verb car when you know what it is, why it’s there, and, equally important, if it belongs. Just determine if together the verb and particle are idiomatic and not tautological. If so, leave them connected and keep your content cruising along.

If not, pull over, let the passenger out, and wish it the best in finding another good sentence.