Garner’s Usage Tip of the Day: such.

Part A: As a Demonstrative Adjective. “Such” is properly used as an adjective when reference has previously been made to a category of people or things: thus “such” means “of that kind” {such a person} {such people}. It isn’t properly equivalent to “this,” “that,” “these,” or “those.” With this word two points should be kept in mind. First, when used as a demonstrative adjective to modify a singular noun, “such” typifies legalese. And contrary to what some think, “such” isn’t any more precise than “the,” “that,” or “those.” Second, “such” is a pointing word that must refer to a clear antecedent. In the following sentence, “such” is used once vaguely (without an antecedent), once clearly: “The Association agreed to compile data on all conventions that will occur in cities where there are interested Gray Line members and to forward such report to such members.” The first “such” would best have been omitted; no reports have been referred to — only the compilation of data, which is not necessarily the same as a report. The second “such,” less objectionable because it refers to the “members” previously mentioned, would read better as “those.” Part B: As a Pronoun. Although the pronoun use of “such” has ancient history on its side — it dates from the 9th century — today it is best regarded as an archaism except in a few phrases on the model of “such is life.” E.g.: “Mr. Richler’s main business as a novelist has been puncturing pretension; and such is the rich pretentiousness of contemporary culture . . . that he need never worry about being out of work.” Joseph Epstein, “The Pleasures of Nastiness,” Wall Street J., 19 Dec. 1997, at A16. Except in that type of idiom, “such” as a pronoun is barbarous-sounding {we never received such}. Indeed, Krapp called it a “crude low colloquialism.” For information about the Language-Change Index click here. ——————– Quotation of the Day: “Why is the eighteenth century, for example, the dreariest period in English literature? There is probably as much mere thought and naked truth in the verse and prose of that century as in those of any other. It was the vicious style of the period that has doomed it.” Henry Bett, Some Secrets of Style 250-51 (1932).
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