For Against As

Since I have been copyediting at JAMA, I have been trying to reinvigorate the use of for as a coordinating conjunction when authors use the word as as demonstrated in the following construction.

There was no significant difference between the study population and the 60 participants who were excluded, as for they had inadequate sample volumes for the assay.

When the typescript came back, my for was deleted and replaced with because. Although I have no objection to because, I like for because it is clear, to the point, and efficient. Despite the continued rejection of my edits, I continue to advocate its use through the editing process, hoping it will take hold, hoping to change enough people’s minds that it will become so common that people will not regard it as “highfalutin” or “dated.”

Besides its efficiencies in language, its use has economic implications: it is shorter than because, for it saves ink and paper, which should please bottom-line conscious editors and publishers. Furthermore, it is grammatically correct and occupies the first place in the mnemonic FANBOYS, which can be found in writing guides to help students remember all of the coordinating conjunctions available to them. Why keep it in the writers’ reference manuals if no one uses it, I ask?

Finally, using as as a coordinating conjunction can be confusing and may steer readers in unintended directions. Coordinating conjunctions are used to show that the clauses of the compound sentence are equivalent. Subordinating conjunctions are designed to show that one idea is more important than another. Both as and because find themselves on the subordinating conjunction list. If they should head the second clause, they should stand alone without the aid of a comma, which when used with coordinating conjunctions announces the compound sentence. So as a copyeditor and a reader, when I see the comma preceding the as I think the author is presenting equivalent ideas rather than subordinating ideas, which is why I am compelled to change as to for. My point is that as when presented in a coordinating conjunction construction is ambiguous and can shift an author’s meaning despite his or her intent. For does not.—Beverly Stewart, MSJ

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