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.