Talk:The Beatles Tapes from the David Wigg Interviews

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As well as[edit]

Hello, everyone.

I recently changed one of my sentences in the article. It's an aspect of English that occurred to me some months ago. I'll discuss it here in case anyone else interested in this phrase comes across it here.

It's quite common to use the phrase "as well as" as a substitute for "and": it adds variety to a sentence or paragraph that might otherwise have a big string of "and"s, and perhaps some persons think "as well as" is somehow 'more formal' than "and". But I've decided to stop writing "as well as" where all that is meant is "and"—because "as well as" is ambiguous at best and misleading at worst.

Take this sentence:

  • She discussed Bill and Tom as well as Georg and Gustav.

It can mean any of these:

  1. She discussed Bill and Tom and Georg and Gustav. (She discussed four individual persons.)
  2. She discussed (A) Bill and Tom and (B) Georg and Gustav. (She discussed two distinct pairs of persons.)
  3. She discussed Bill and Tom as well as Georg and Gustav discussed Bill and Tom. (She discussed Bill and Tom with the same skill as that with which Gustav and Georg discussed Bill and Tom.)
  4. She discussed Bill and Tom as well as she discussed Georg and Gustav. (She discussed Bill and Tom with the same skill as that with which she discussed Georg and Gustav.)

Taken literally, without regard to the idiomatic use as a stand-in for "and", the "as well as" must make the first sentence mean #3 or #4; but it's unclear which of those two: there's the "ambiguous at best". With the idiom in mind and the literal meaning set aside, it still can mean either of #1 and #2: again, ambiguity. And, if it's taken to mean #3 or #4 when all that's meant is simply #1 or #2, then completely the wrong meaning is conveyed: there's the "misleading at worst".

Persons whose first language isn't English may be even likelier to (mis)interpret an "as well as" as giving the sense in #3 or #4, rather than meaning "and". The English-language Wikipedias have many readers whose first languages aren't English.

Anyway, that's why I'm changing my use of "as well as". Should you change yours as well? Had you already thought of this aspect of English usage?

President Lethe (talk) 16:12, 16 June 2012 (UTC)