Posted by: Jack Henry | August 7, 2017

Editor’s Corner: As Well As

In technical writing, we try to eliminate unnecessary words as much as possible. Therefore, I rarely use the phrase “as well as.” Why use three words when one word (“and”) will suffice?

However, not all writers practice minimalism. If communicating succinctly is not a concern, are the phrase “as well as” and the word “and” completely interchangeable?

In some sentences, it seems that way. For example, the following two sentences mean essentially the same thing:

· I have a turtle and a cat.

· I have a turtle as well as a cat.

Look closely, however, and you might notice a subtle difference. The word “and” gives equal weight to the two items in the list (the turtle and the cat). The second sentence subtly emphasizes the turtle and deemphasizes the cat.

Neither a pet turtle nor a pet cat is especially surprising, so the emphasis doesn’t matter much. But if you’re not careful, the phrase “as well as” can make it seem like you’re elevating something mundane over something surprising. Consider the following sentence:

· I have a Labrador retriever as well as a northern white rhino.

To me, this sentence is almost comical. It emphasizes the fact that I have a Labrador retriever (the most common dog breed) and treats as an afterthought the fact that I have a northern white rhino (of which there are three in the world).

Emphasizing the wrong part of a sentence might not be grammatically incorrect, but it can confuse your readers.

If the items in your list are equally important, use the word “and” and list the items in any order. If one of the items is more important and you decide to use the phrase “as well as,” list the most important item first.

Ben Ritter | Technical Editor | Symitar®
8985 Balboa Avenue | San Diego, CA 92123
619-682-3391 | or ext. 763391 |

Symitar Documentation Services

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