LawProse Lesson #195: “Due to” what?

LawProse Lesson #195: “Due to” what?

Due to what? Traditionally, due functions as either a noun meaning “something owed” {The players finally gave their coach his due.} or an adjective meaning “adequate” or “appropriate” {due process} {with all due respect}. The phrase due to most traditionally functions as an adjective meaning “attributable to.” Linguistic conservatives think that the phrase is best used (1) after a be-verb, as a predicate adjective {The sharp drop in the market was due to the treasury report.}, or (2) to modify a noun {The delay due to the power outage changed the school’s schedule.}. Today, however, many use the phrase due to as a conjunctive adverb displacing because of, owing to, caused by, or on grounds of {Due to [read because of] the number of accidents at that corner, the city is installing a traffic signal.} {The court reversed the decision due to [read on grounds of] a procedural defect in service.}. This use of the phrase—a linguistic upstart that took root during the 20th century—has suddenly risen in popularity. If you’re using due to to mean because of, the safer and stronger choice is almost always simply to write or say because of. Another way to avoid the problem is to refrain from beginning sentences with the phrase. Apologists of this newer due to say that it’s as grammatically sound as “owing to” and point to published instances by major writers. In fact, though, in edited English this adverbial due to occurs much, much less frequently than because of. It’s still in the linguistic shadows because it has been stigmatized for so long in editorial circles. In the Language-Change Index of Garner’s Modern American Usage (3d ed. 2009), it’s labeled a Stage 4 misusage. Stage 5 would make it Standard English. It’s not there yet. Due followed by an infinitive is not the same due to at all, even though it looks deceptively similar {The council’s decision was due to be reversed next term.} {The new restaurant is due to open on Wednesday.}. The verbose phrase due to the fact that can almost always be boiled down to because {The neighbors complained due to the fact that [read because] the party stayed loud past midnight.} {She did not rehire the firm due partly to the fact that [read partly because] its partners were lacking trial experience.}. If you make a habit of using due to correctly in your writing, any criticism from discerning readers will be undue. Further reading: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 301 (3d ed. 2011). Garner’s Modern American Usage 283 (3d ed. 2009). The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style § 12.3, at 272 (3d ed. 2013).

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