How to Get the Grammar Police Off Your Back, Part II: “Due To” vs “Because Of”

Surefire way to find yourself sitting on the curb with a ziptie on your wrists? Use “due to” around the grammar police.

“Yes, but what if I use it correctly? Hmmm?”

Oh, come on. “Due to” has been used correctly exactly five times in the history of the world and all of those were by my grandmother. That’s because it’s one of those irritating little grammar things that only seem wrong to those who know the rule. Dollars to donuts, the eleventy-squillion times in the history of the world that “due to” has been used INcorrectly, absolutely no one noticed or cared. Except my grandmother.

Here’s Grammar Girl’s take on “due to”:

The traditional view is that you should use “due to” only as an adjective, usually following the verb “to be” (1). For example, if you say, “The cancellation was due to rain,” the words “due to” modify “cancellation.” That sentence is a bit formal, but it fits the traditionalist rule.

If you want to be more casual, you’ll say, “It was cancelled because of rain.” According to purists, you’re not allowed to say, “It was cancelled due to rain” because “due to” doesn’t have anything to modify. Purists argue that “due to” is an adjective; it shouldn’t be a compound preposition.

Very few of us are thinking about adjectives and compound prepositions when we speak, so it may be difficult to know when you’re using “due to” as an adjective. Strunk & White (2) suggest using “due to” when you can replace it with “attributable to,” whereas in her book Woe is I Patricia O’Connor (3) proposes substituting “caused by” or “resulting from.”

Here’s what I suggest regarding the use of “due to”: avoid the little bastard like the plague. When’s the last time “due to” did you any favors, anyway? Never, that’s when. All it’s ever done is complicate your life and get you in trouble with my grandmother.

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