The sins of this word are well known; it has been said that there is perhaps no single word so freely resorted to as a trouble-saver and consequently responsible for so much flabby writing.
Here are some examples to show how what might be a simple and straightforward statement becomes enmeshed in the coils of phrases formed with case:
The cost of maintenance of the building would be higher than was the case with a building of traditional construction. (The cost of maintenance of the building would be higher than that of a building of traditional construction.)
That country is not now so short of sterling as was formerly the case. (As it used to be.)
Since the officiating president in the case of each major institute takes up his office on widely differing dates. (Since the officiating presidents of the major institutes take up office on widely differing dates.)
The National Coal Board is an unwieldy organisation, in many cases quite out of touch with the coalfields.
It is not easy to guess the meaning of this last example.
This trick-use of case is even worse when the reader might be misled, if only momentarily, into thinking that a physical case was meant:
Cases have thus arisen in which goods have been exported without the knowledge of this Commission.
Water for domestic use is carried by hand in many cases from road standpipes.
There are, of course, many legitimate uses of the word, and writers should not be frightened away from it altogether by Quiller-Couch's much-quoted and rather overdone onslaught. There are for instance (to borrow from Fowler):
A case of measles.
You have no case.
In case of need, or fire, or other emergency.
A case of burglary or other crime.
A law case of any sort.
Circumstances alter cases.
But do not say "that is not the case" when you mean "that is not so", or "It is not the case that I wrote that letter", when you mean "It is not true that I wrote that letter", or merely "I did not write that letter".
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