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Due to vs. because of

Question:

A colleague and I had a discussion about the use of due to versus because of. We're wondering which one is correct in the example below and why.

  • Due to (or because of) her organizational skills, disruption of routine was kept to a minimum.

Answer:

This is a complex question—the grammar books we consulted have conflicting views.

In your example, due to/because of is used as a compound preposition introducing an adverbial phrase that modifies the verb kept. While the use of due to as a compound preposition meaning because of is well established, traditionalists have not accepted it as being grammatically correct.

The majority of references we looked at say due to can be used as you suggest in your example, but only in informal writing.

Some say that due to should introduce an adjective phrase (modifying a noun) while others say that due to can be treated as either an adjective or a preposition. The Gage Canadian Dictionary (2003) explains as follows:

  • Due was originally used only as an adjective, and therefore in formal English many writers use due to only to introduce an adjective phrase (one modifying a noun): Her success was due to hard work (modifies success). In informal English due to is often used [as a preposition] to introduce an adverb phrase: Due to her hard work, she succeeded. However, many people do not approve of this construction. To avoid it, use because of or on account of.

The Handbook for Writers, Oxford's Guide to Canadian English Usage, and A Canadian Writer's Reference back the Gage's point of view, explaining that due to normally follows a linking verb ("to be") and functions as an adjective. Because of is used to modify a verb (but not a linking verb).

So to sum up, if your example is in an informal text, you have the choice between because of or due to. For more formal writing, use because of or rephrase the sentence if you want to use due to. Your example would be rewritten something like this:

  • Minimal disruption to the routine was due to her organizational skills.