"As Well."

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Wed May 9 03:20:56 UTC 2007

James Harbeck writes:

"This discussion is turning up all sorts of interesting

Indeed! My own observation is that, as far as I am aware, these uses
of "as well," either sentence-initially or as the equivalent of "and"
and "too," is unknown in BE. It's all new to me.  WRT segregation,
"It's an ill wind that blows nobody good," to coin a phrase. :-) OTOH,
though,  BE does enjoy beginning a sentence with "and plus besides."


On 5/8/07, James Harbeck <jharbeck at sympatico.ca> wrote:
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> Poster:       James Harbeck <jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA>
> Subject:      Re: "As Well."
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >well, different people make different stylistic choices.  you seem to
> >be assuming that "also" and "too" are the 'right' choices to make,
> >but that some people (incomprehensibly) choose to use another
> >variant.
> Really, Arnold, I may be an editor, but I'm not thick-headed (no,
> really -- I can produce plenty of character references) and I'm not a
> prescriptivist. I use "as well" all the time, and I don't think it's
> wrong at all. (I note that I used "as well" in a posting on this list
> on April 9. I also used it -- in sentence-initial position, even --
> in my doctoral dissertation -- which was at Tufts, which is of course
> in the US. And I've used it uncountable other times. Trust me, I have
> no prejudice against it.)
> What I'm saying is just that some authors invariably choose "as well"
> rather than sometimes choosing "also" or "too" as many authors would.
> It's not incomprehensible at all; it seems pretty clear to me why
> they do it, and any Canadian could reasonably choose "as well" in any
> of these instances -- but most of them will sometimes choose "also"
> or "too". So the thoroughgoing use of "as well" is notable as a
> stylistic choice simply because the authors never seem to use the
> other available options, and it's an interesting indicator of the
> acceptability and position of this usage in Canadian English.
> >but your criticism seems to be levelled at *all* the uses of "as
> >well" (vs. "too" and "also").  this i find puzzling, since the
> >sentence-final focus particle "as well" is entirely standard.  (over
> >70 occurrences in the NYT during the past month, many of them in
> >serious reporting.)
> Could you show me where I made a criticism? I was unaware of making
> any sort of criticism at all, and I'm frankly puzzled at your
> characterization of my observations as such. When I say that some
> people seem allergic to using "too" or "also", that's not meant as an
> expression of disgust with "as well", it's merely an observation that
> some people seem to avoid the other two. (Insistent use of one
> variant when others are available can become tiresome, of course, but
> this is so regardless of the variant.) I mentioned it as an indicator
> of how common and accepted "as well" is here. I was surprised to
> learn that it may not be universally so in the US.
> >  > This is, not surprisingly, especially
> >>  common among businesspeople and others who want their writing to
> >>  sound more important.
> >
> >in what way does final "as well" 'sound more important' than "too" or
> >"also"?  maybe you have this feeling, but i don't, and i don't see
> >any of the usageists complaining about it.
> In my experience, "as well" tends to show up more often in prose that
> is more formal overall in tone. This is not surprising to me, since
> in Canada I find that it does have a more formal tone to it, perhaps
> because it has more syllables but perhaps for other reasons yet to be
> discerned; I'd be interested in a study to find out, but, as you
> point out, it's not an easy thing to study, because if you just ask
> people you never get accurate results, so you need to do a lot more
> work -- association with register might be productive, and initially
> suggestive results may perhaps even be forthcoming from correlation
> with percentage of prepositional phrases in a given text (yes, a very
> coarse approach), for instance, but even that much is a fair piece of
> work. But the formality judgement comes from my experience as a
> Canadian. It makes sense that you, an American, might feel
> differently about it, and I should have remembered that what seems
> plain enough to a speaker of one dialect may not at all seem so to a
> speaker of another.
> As to the issue of complaints, again, I'm not complaining, any more
> than I would be complaining if I said "use of 'therefore' is, not
> surprisingly, especially common among those writers who want their
> writing to sound more clinical or formal" -- something I have also
> observed, and don't find surprising, as it's a low-frequency word
> associated most strongly with certain more formal registers. (If it's
> not, please show me the stats, because I'd be fascinated -- really!)
> >sentence-initial "as well" doesn't produce potential ambiguities.
> >it's set off by intonation (or, in writing, a comma) and pretty much
> >has to be understood as a discourse-linking sentence adverbial.
> I agree with that, and I hope I didn't seem to be saying otherwise.
> >now, sentence-final "as well" can produce potential ambiguities,
> >according to which element in the preceding sentence is focused on.
> >but the all the final focus particles, "also" and "too" included, can
> >produce such ambiguities:
> What I was getting at is that some authors will write, for instance,
> "John is a professional oboist, and his teenage daughter Sylvia plays
> as well" rather than writing, say, "...and his teenage daughter
> Sylvia also plays" so as to avoid the possible interpretation that
> she plays with equal ability. This is an indication of the privilege
> that "as well" can get and also of just how common and accepted it
> is, and I find that this privileging is more common among writers who
> want to sound more formal. Evidently you find this more surprising
> than I do. This discussion is turning up all sorts of interesting
> observations!
> James Harbeck.
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