Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The maniacal use of "having said that"


As we have discussed before (drive and issues), if you want to achieve clear writing you must break the habit of using fad words and phrases. With rare exceptions, fad words and phrases are lazy substitutes for more-specific words and phrases.

Let’s consider the phrase having said that. It is a conjunctive phrase that can replace another conjunctive phrase or a conjunction. Roughly speaking, the conjunctive phrases and conjunctions that it can replace fall into two groups. For simplicity, I’ll call them the and group and the but group.

The and group includes: and, therefore, so, accordingly, moreover, furthermore, in addition and for example. They introduce phrases or clauses or that add to or extend the statement that came before having said that.

The but group includes: but, however, on the other hand, nevertheless, in spite of that, and although. They introduce phrases or clauses that take away from, limit, soften or otherwise qualify the statement that came before having said that.

It’s OK to use having said that when the reader will immediately grasp your meaning. For example, “I respect and admire Phil as an engineer; having said that, I don’t really like him as a person.” But often, the reader will not immediately grasp your meaning.

Example: In a news story about gas shortages in the South, we read this:

“Jim Tudor, the president of the Georgia Association of Convenience Stores, which represents about 2,600 stores, praised the state for lifting some of the restrictions to allow for quicker delivery of fuel.

“ ‘We are working as fast as possible to try to get as many stations refilled,’ he said. ‘Having said that, we’re still in catch-up mode.’ ” (Boldface added)

The reader must pause and guess the meaning. He may guess that this is an example of the but group and that Mr. Tudor probably means: “nevertheless, the number of empty stations is still increasing.”

Example: In a post on The PHP Zone blog, we read this:

“A good framework is easy to learn, simple to use, intuitive to work with, easy to extend or to modify, rapid to build (maintain) applications with and of course stable.

“Having said that, here is my top 10 PHP MVC Frameworks:” (Boldface added)

The reader must pause and guess the meaning, He may guess that this is an example of the and group and that the writer probably means: “For example, here are my top 10 PHP MVC Frameworks:”

Unfortunately, having said that has graduated from fad to mania over the last five or six years. That means more of us are tending to use it without thinking.

The Takeaway: Think. Respect your readers; don’t make them guess. Use having said that only if the context makes the meaning immediately clear. Otherwise, write therefore if you mean therefore, write nevertheless if you mean nevertheless, and so on. Nothing to it. If you object that you just can’t resist being trendy, this is probably not the right blog for you.

Grammar Note: The phrase having said that must be followed immediately by a noun or pronoun referencing the person(s) who said whatever preceded having said that. Examples: Having said that, I ... is grammatical. Having said that, she… is grammatical. Having said that, there is a chance that the theory might be incorrect is ungrammatical.

Style Note: In informal speech or writing, having said that may seem pompous.

9 comments:

  1. So glad to see you have posted this. I am going to blog about it because I believe it is such an unnecessary thing to say. Having said that - yes they did just say that, why do they have to repeat that they said it? I did hear it. Okay, sorry it's just a pet peeve and I am tired of listening to it. Oh and I will link to your blog. Thanks!
    Jo
    http://www.BlogBoomerBlog.com

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  2. I cannot STAND the rampant use by every newscaster, weather person, sports show host, politician, etc. of the "Big Three":

    1. Having said that....
    2. That being said...
    3. That said...

    It is truly nauseating to me to see so many lemmings who blindly adopt one or all of these into their conversations as if it projects some sort of intelligence on their part or shows how articulate they can be. I pray that it's a fad...much like "uptalk" was, where every statement made by a person ended in a question mark? Or like the many phrases that came out of Watergate, such as "it is unconscienable" or "at that point in time", etc. These all disappeared in time but, having said that, I see no end to having said that and, with that said, I'll sign off.

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  3. Nice post, Joe, as always!

    People often write "having said that" in an attempt to sound formal and professional--like kids dressing up in adult clothes. The phrase, like the clothes, actually makes the writer seem less formal and professional.

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  4. I hope "having said that" is a fad because it is becoming annoying. Having said that, I was glad to see these posts... that said...

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  5. Yay! So glad to see I'm not the only one fed up with those trite, overused, silly fad phrases. Maybe it has something to with ADD haha.

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  6. I just wanted to know if anyone else was sick of hearing those phrases. Glad I am not the only one. It is so overused.

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  7. I think less intelligent people use this phrase to make everyone they talk to think that they are just so wonderful. I`m so sick of hearing this crap. Get an education.

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  8. It's become a substitution for "um".

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