LawProse Lesson 361: The vague “as to”

LawProse Lesson 361: The vague “as to”

Many stylists avoid this phrasal preposition on grounds that it displaces too many ordinary, down-to-earth, single words: about <a rule about something>, at <surprised at how quickly>, by <surprised by the number>, for <same rules for individual taxpayers>, into <inquired into the problem>, of <unsure of the rule>, on <agree on a deadline>, to <the answer to the question>, and with <same is true with health insurance>. Inattentive writers—especially lawyers—will use as to in every one of those phrases, as opposed to the simpler prepositions. As to can be addictive.

Sometimes as to is completely superfluous: stylists know to use the phrase question whether, not question as to whether (or, almost equally bad, question of whether).

Because as to doesn’t immediately and specifically establish conceptual relationships, it can hamper comprehension. You’d be well advised to reserve as to for only one circumstance: starting a sentence that would otherwise start with the phrase With regard to. As to that particular usage—and only that one—the wording is entirely defensible.

The Chicago Manual of Style 313 (17th ed. 2017).
The Chicago Guide to Grammar, Usage, and Punctuation 240 (2016).
The Elements of Legal Style 104–05 (2d ed. 2002).
Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 89 (3d ed. 2011).

Live seminars this year with Professor Bryan A. Garner: Advanced Legal Writing & Editing

Attend the most popular CLE seminar of all time. More than 215,000 people—including lawyers, judges, law clerks, and paralegals—have benefited since the early 1990s. You'll learn the keys to professional writing and acquire no-nonsense techniques to make your letters, memos, and briefs more powerful.

You'll also learn what doesn't work and why—know-how gathered through Professor Garner's unique experience in training lawyers at the country's top law firms, state and federal courts, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

Professor Garner gives you the keys to make the most of your writing aptitude—in letters, memos, briefs, and more. The seminar covers five essential skills for persuasive writing:

  • framing issues that arrest the readers' attention;
  • cutting wordiness that wastes readers' time;
  • using transitions deftly to make your argument flow;
  • quoting authority more effectively; and
  • tackling your writing projects more efficiently.

He teaches dozens of techniques that make a big difference. Most important, he shows you what doesn't work—and why—and how to cultivate skillfulness.

Register to reserve your spot today.

Have you wanted to bring Professor Garner to teach your group? Contact us at for more information about in-house seminars.

Scroll to Top