April 12, 2012

Weekly Language Usage Tips: misuse of as such & cost or costed

Posted in as such, cost/costed, misuse of as such at 8:41 am by dlseltzer

Tip 1: The misuse of ‘as such’

A reader writes:

Have you addressed the relatively common misuse of ‘as such’? Would you be willing to?

I said I would and asked the reader for an example. This is what I received:

Here’s what I consider correct:

I am a grammar snob. As such, I criticize much of what I read.

And incorrect:

I think it’s important to use proper grammar. As such, I get upset when I see mistakes…

Hmmmm…

Oh bosh. I’m sure he wasn’t referring to me. Of course not. No way. That’s completely silly.

But still…

Never mind. ‘As such’ is a phrase that is often used incorrectly as a transition between sentences. For example:

We wanted to design a study to better understand the decision-making capability of geriatric patients. As such, we will conduct a cross-sectional study of nursing home residents.

In the above sentence, ‘as such’ makes no sense as a transitional phrase. That’s because ‘as such’ always refers to an antecedent. And ‘as such’ isn’t referring to any of the nouns in the preceding sentence. It’s not referring to ‘we’ or ‘study’ or ‘capability’ or ‘patients.’ To correct this problem, we should substitute another word or phrase for ‘as such.’ For example:

We wanted to design a study to better understand the decision-making capability of geriatric patients. Therefore, we will conduct a cross-sectional study of nursing home residents.

We wanted to design a study to better understand the decision-making capability of geriatric patients. To that end, we will conduct a cross-sectional study of nursing home residents.

Remember, ‘as such’ always needs something coming before it to which it can refer.

Geriatric patients constitute the population group least capable of making quick and accurate decisions. As such, they are ideal candidates to use to study impaired decision-making.

While preparing to write today’s wlut, I googled ‘as such.’ To my surprise, I found languagetips.wordpress.com in the list of results. I had totally forgotten that I had written about this before—back in June of 2010.

I looked at what I had written and found that I said, then, pretty much the same thing that I am saying now—with one small exception. Along with advice on how to use ‘as such’ correctly, I recommended that we not use ‘as such’ at all. This is what I said then:

So why do I recommend you don’t use it all? Mainly, because it is such a weak phrase, and it is used incorrectly so often that it has been rendered, in large part, meaningless. There are better and more precise words that can replace it, but often, it can just be eliminated with no loss to your writing; in fact, it can contribute to increased clarity.

One way to tighten up the sentence we were working on, above, is this:

We will conduct a cross-sectional study of nursing home residents to better understand the decision-making capability of geriatric patients.

Better. I think I will stick with the advice I gave a couple of years ago. Don’t use ‘as such’ incorrectly, but better yet, don’t use it at all.

Tip 2: Cost or costed

A reader writes:

I need to use the past tense of ‘cost.’  I find ‘costed’ as the past and past participle of ‘cost’ in a dictionary, but the example sentences in the same reference seem to use ‘cost’ as the past tense.  Do you mind giving me some advice?

Inhaled nitric oxide once costed (?) only $8 per hour, but because of patent laws, it now costs $150 per hour.

‘Cost’ is a very cool word. The reason is that you can’t go wrong with ‘cost.’ The present is ‘cost.’

The volumes, together, cost twenty dollars.

The past is ‘cost.’

I checked the store yesterday, and they only cost ten dollars then.

The past participle is ‘cost.’

Having cost less than expected, the books were standing proudly on the shelf.

(That’s a terrible sentence. Sorry.)

In almost all instances, the correct word would be ‘cost.’ What confused the reader is that the dictionaries do, indeed, show ‘costed’ as the past tense. However, there is only one context in which you would use ‘costed.’

You would only use ‘costed’ if you were talking about figuring out the price as in:

 He costed out the total price as $1,000 figuring 10 pieces at $100/each.

In the reader’s sentence,  ‘cost’ is the correct term.

Inhaled nitric oxide once cost only $8 per hour, but because of patent laws, it now costs $150 per hour.

And that’s the story of ‘cost’ and costed.’

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