Usage and Grammar

Q. This might not be a point of grammar so much as a question of style, but how would you define the usage of the phrase “as such”? Could you argue for a strict explanation of when its use may or may not be appropriate? Many thanks for tackling this one.

A. I’m glad you asked. Literature and speech abound with dangling usage of this phrase. “As such” is not a substitute for “therefore.” Rather, “such” must refer to an antecedent noun or noun phrase in order for “as such” to make grammatical sense (and yes, it’s a matter of grammar). As a test, ask yourself “as what?”

Correct: We were a gaggle of skinny, giggling adolescent girls. As such [As what? As a gaggle of girls], we were immediately drawn to the crowd of tall, goofy boys.

Correct: The matter was left to a group of indecisive ninnies. As such [As indecisive ninnies], they resorted to the toss of a coin.

Incorrect: Because of the accident, he arrived at the dock an hour late. As such [As what? No antecedent], he missed the boat and forfeited his deposit.