Usage question: since/because?

Subject: Usage question: since/because?
From: Geoff Hart <ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>, Kimberly McClintock <kimberly -dot- mcclintock -at- openlogic -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 18 Apr 2007 16:43:08 -0400

Kimberly McClintock wondered: <<"This version also hides the
properties attribute from JMX <file:///Y:\users\docs\UnderReview
\Kimberly\c3p0\\jmx> access since properties often contains
password information." I would have used 'because' instead of 'since'.>>

The two words are synonymous, and for a well-educated audience whose
first language is English, both are acceptable choices. However, in
technical communication, it's generally better to use a word with
only one meaning where there is any a possibility of confusion
between two meanings of a word. Because "since" has a second (more
common) meaning relating to elapsed time, "because" is the better
word according to this criterion.

Note that the risk of confusion is low in the specific example you
provided, but the point is nonetheless worth keeping in mind. (Think
of it as a less anal-retentive use of simplified English principles.
<gdr>) For example, you note:

<<I do, however, wonder if anyone knows what's wrong - if anything -
with using 'since' here. I looked it up and it's apparently a
legitimate alternative to 'because'...but it doesn't 'sound' right to
me... >>

The fact that you felt it necessary to look up the word "since" to
confirm that the usage is legitimate should raise a red flag. Note
that I'm not accusing you of being an uneducated ignoramus <g> --
just pointing out that you're presumably an experienced writer, and
should listen to your own gut feelings. If a word looks suspicious to
you, and you're at the top end of the range of linguistic skills for
your audience, the conservative approach is to go with the less-
suspicious alternative. "Since" may be perfectly acceptable to _most_
of your audience, but "because" will be acceptable to everyone.

A "better" way to write this? "This version also hides.. to conceal
any password information contained in these properties." I could do
better with more context, but note that the proposed rewording is
more concise and more direct, and not coincidentally, avoids the
whole "since" issue.

-- Geoff Hart
ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca / geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com
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usage question: since/because: From: Kimberly McClintock

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