Your daily usage tip hot off the press.


Smarter words.


post hoc, ergo propter hoc


post hoc, ergo propter hoc (L. “after this, therefore because of this”) denotes the fallacy of confusing sequence with consequence. E.g.: “The Feb. 5 Dispatch editorial linking the major decrease in the number of licensed gun dealers with a minor decrease in homicides illustrates the first fallacy taught in any logic course: post hoc, ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this). The rooster’s crow does not cause the sun to rise.” Letter of Kevin Cantos, “Licensing Unrelated to Drop in Slayings,” Columbus Dispatch, 22 Feb. 1997, at A11.


      Two common usages, since for because (acceptable) and consequent for subsequent (unacceptable), exemplify the fallacy: they originated when speakers
and writers confused causality with temporality.


Quotation of the Day: "[F]atalism about language cannot be the philosophy of those who care about language; it is the illogical philosophy of their opponents. Surely the notion that, because usage is ultimately what everybody does to words, nobody can or should do anything about them is self-contradictory. Somebody, by definition, does something; and this something is best done by those with convictions and a stake in the outcome, whether the stake of private pleasure or of professional duty does not matter. Resistance always begins with individuals.” 

—Wilson Follett,

Modern American Usage: A Guide 12 (1966).


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