Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

Oct 1 2012   1:48PM GMT

“As good or better than” is as bad as, if not worse than…



Posted by: Ivy Wigmore
Tags:
CIO
idioms
parallel structure
Strunk and White

Which is correct?
1. His response time for trouble tickets is as good, or better, than ever.
2. His response time for trouble tickets is as good as, or better than, ever.


Answer: 2.

Explanation:
The meaning of the sentence is clear in either version but structure is not parallel in the first sentence. You wouldn’t say something was “as good than ever,” so you really need a second “as” to be strictly correct. Opinions differ on whether the first sentence is permissible but the problem is that it will niggle some readers and thus disrupt the flow of their reading.

However, there’s also a slight problem with “as good as, or better than.” It’s a little cumbersome. You could, instead, change the phrase to “as good as ever–if not better” and the reader would understand that “than ever” was the implied end of the sentence. According to Stan Carey, who’s conducted a thorough examination of expert opinion on this issue, that’s Strunk’s chosen solution to the problem.

Let’s see how the two options fare in a Google poll:

As good as or better than: 1,760,000
As good or better than: 11,500,000

Wow. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a clear winner. And according to some experts, it’s time to accept “as good or better than” as an idiom. I still vote for rewriting to avoid the whole issue, though. What do you think?

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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