From 'Vocabulary' part of The ABC Of Plain Words by Sir E Gowers (1951)

A correspondent has written asking me to:

scarify the phrase "so far as . . . is concerned ", e.g. " the war is over so far as Germany is concerned ", an actual instance; or " so far as he was concerned interest in the game was over ". After long and vigilant watch I have still to find a case in which a single preposition would not be clearer as well as shorter. I suspect that my fellow-journalists are more addicted to this use of the phrase than civil servants; but these are not guiltless.

I would gladly do so, but I have been forestalled by Professor Kapp, who devotes to this useful task a large part of Chapter X (" Circumlocutions ") of his book The Presentation of Technical Information (Constable 1948). I could not improve on his scarification; and to condense it would be to spoil it.

It is perhaps putting the case too high to say that " so far as ... concerned " could always be replaced by a single preposition. I do not think that the phrase can be dispensed with by those who wish to emphasise that they have blinkers on, and are concerned only with one aspect of a question. " So far as I am concerned you may go home " implies that someone else has a say too. Or again:

So far as the provisions of the Trading with the Enemy Act are concerned, the sum so released may . . . be utilized to reimburse you for expenses. . . .

There is no other equally convenient way of making clear that the writer is removing only the impediment created by the Act and is not concerned with any other impediment there may be.

Possibly, though less certainly, this sentence might claim the same indulgence:

The effect of the suggested system, so far as the pharmaceutical industry is concerned, would be to ensure rewards for research and development work until the new preparations were absorbed into the B.P.

It might be argued that we should not get quite the same meaning from " on the pharmaceutical industry "; this destroys the suggestion that there may be other effects, but the writer is not concerning himself with them.

But these are exceptions. There is no doubt that the phrase is generally a cloak for muddled thinking:

The ruling factor, so far as native trade is concerned, is price. (The ruling factor in native trade is price.)

Some were opposed to hanging as a means of execution where women were concerned. (As a means of executing women.)

There has been no material change so far as the drafting of a formal application is concerned. (There has been no material change; no formal application has yet been drafted.)

Wood pulp manufacture on a commercial scale is a very recent development so far as time is concerned. ( Omit the last six words. )

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