Since and because. What’s the difference? These two little conjunctions cause problems for some writers and represent yet another gray area in terms of accepted word usage. Merriam-Webster lists because as a synonym for since and vice versa, but there is a subtle distinction.
How to use since correctly:
Since can used in a temporal sense.
Since the weather changed, my allergies have improved.
An easy way to test if since is appropriate is to substitute “from the time when.”
Since she was a toddler, music has been an important part of Cheryl’s life.
We have visited nearly every hobby shop in San Francisco since we moved to California.
How to use because correctly:
When talking about cause and effect, use because. This leaves very little room for confusion, as the word itself spells out its purpose.
Because of the new medication, my allergies have improved.
Also correct: Since I discovered this new medication, my allergies have improved.
Because we were missing so many ingredients, we had to find a new recipe.
Unfortunately, this does not clear things up completely. According to more than one dictionary, since can also be used to mean because:
Since he emphasized how important it was, I ran right out and mailed it.
(I mailed something because it was important.)
Some folks insist that this is incorrect; and while it does lend itself to confusion (because would have made it more clear that this is a cause-and-effect situation), it is not necessarily incorrect. Some style guides insist on sticking to since for time-related usage, which helpfully removes any doubt. In most areas of creative writing, though, people have been happily using this construction for years and are unlikely to stop just because they’re told it’s wrong.
Don’t let confusion over words like since vs. because stop the flow of your creativity. Writer’s Relief has been helping the writing community since 1994—because we love to see writers get their short stories, poems, essays, and novels published!