The Reason Why Is Because

This is something I really didn’t learn until years into my writing, but now I’m keenly aware of it. Because of the way we often talk, we make this mistake in our writing regarding reason and why. The word reason means an explanation. The word why is defined in Merriam-Webster’s as “cause, reason, or purpose.” Maybe you already see where I’m going with this.

If you say, “The reason why I ate that . . . ” you are saying, “The reason reason I ate that.” Now, the word because means . . . you guessed it: why. So now, if you say, “The reason why I ate that is because . . .” you are saying, “The reason reason I ate that is the reason . . .” (or something close to that). Most Word options can be set to detect the reason-why combination and it will flag it, but try to watch out for it. That sentence, by the way, should just be “The reason I ate that sandwich is I was hungry.” Or you could use two sentences: “Why did I eat that sandwich? Because I was hungry.”

5 Responses to “The Reason Why Is Because”

  1. Jackie Paulson October 20, 2012 at 11:50 am #

    “The word reason means an explanation. The word why is defined in Merriam-Webster’s as “cause, reason, or purpose.” Maybe you already see where I’m going with this.”

    I make this mistake sometimes but now that I am experienced as a writer I know that I usually like the tell others the specific reason why. I love to give examples too. I do see this happen in writing today but who knows with teachers such as yourself and an author we all learn from you as well. Thank you for sharing this as it is important for all of us to improve our writing style.

  2. Carol Frome October 21, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Another option: I ate the sandwich because I was hungry. Or (less elegant), Because I was hungry, I ate the sandwich. I find that I can nearly always replace “The reason why is because” with a short, direct sentence. I’m a wordiness freak. If I can slash it, I do.

  3. Linda M Au October 21, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    I think an even simpler way to say your example is: “I ate that sandwich because I was hungry.” Leave the words “reason” or “why” out of it entirely. Sometimes less is more. 😉

  4. Edward Curley October 21, 2012 at 12:11 pm #

    In Spanish the word, por qué Means both “why” and “because.”

    If you use the word por qué with a questioning voice you are asking, why? If you say the word in a declarative manner you are answering and saying “because.”

    Scroll down:

    por qué

    why, wherefore
    interjection

    ¿por qué razón

    why

    porqé

    reason, ratio, rate, cause, argument, gist

    cause, case, reason

  5. Virginia October 21, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    I usually pride myself on my grammatical skills, but you’ve taught me something I never knew. Thank you. I’m glad I read it

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