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English Usage Guides (1974, vol. 7, 5)

Peter Gawn
(Terminology Update, Volume 7, Number 5, 1974, page 3)

TOPIC:

Due to …

PROBLEM:

Should due to be used as a prepositional phrase in place of owing to or because of?

Incorrect Use:

Due to the storm he postponed his canoe trip.

Correct Use:

Owing to (Because of) the storm …

AUTHORITIES:

This is a question on which the authorities are divided. They all agree that due to is commonly used in this way, and many of those who oppose it concede that it will become generally accepted in time. The usage is originally American rather than British, and Canadians follow the American practice in their speech, as Orkin points out (p. 154). The OED supplement (1933) records it as frequent in US use, and Foster notes it in reputable British newspapers from 1956.

MEU remarks that "the offending usage is literally part of the Queen’s English" and quotes from the Throne Speech read by the Queen when opening the Canadian Parliament in October 1957: "Due to inability to market their grain…"

Nevertheless, an impressive number of authorities on both sides of the Atlantic do not like it, and the usage is condemned by, among others, CGSM, COD, G&M and the American Heritage Dictionary Usage Panel.

The grammatical pros and cons do not seem too solid, so that the matter becomes finally one of taste.

SUMMARY:

It would be hard to improve on the comment in Plain Words (p. 132): "Many readers feel very strongly against the "incorrect" use, common though it is. The sensible writer should therefore try to form a habit of using it correctly."

The touchstone for correct use is whether or not attributable can be substituted for due, e.g. "The postponement of this canoe trip was due to the storm."

SUGGESTED

FICHE:

Avoid the use of due to as a prepositional phrase in place of owing to or because of. Check for proper use by substituting attributable to.

KEY TO REFERENCE WORKS:

CGSM: Style Manual for Writers and Editors, Queen’s Printer, 1962.
COD: Concise Oxford Dictionary, OUP, 1969.
Foster: Brian Foster, The Changing English Language, Penguin 1970, p. 226.
G&M: Style Book, Globe & Mail, Toronto, 1969.
MEU: A Dictionary of Modern English Usage, H.W. Fowler, Second Edition, OUP, 1965.
OED: Oxford English Dictionary.
Orkin: Speaking Canadian English, M.M. Orkin, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1971.
Plain Words: The Complete Plain Words, E. Gowers & B. Fraser, HMSO, 1973.