‘Reason Why’ and ‘About How’

I received an interesting e-mail from a reader named Todd, who was enquiring about the propriety of using the constructions about how and reason why.

I replied that their biggest sin is their utter redundancy.  How, reason and why can, depending on the sentence, stand by themselves and do the job solo.  About how is also unspecific and therefore unclear in most instances.

Todd himself later mailed some good examples, one of which I’ll shamelessly repeat here:

Original:

"The Usual Suspects is a 1995 film about how five criminals are brought together and embark on a crime spree, with a spectacular plot twist at the conclusion."

Todd’s revision:

"The Usual Suspects is a 1995 film about five criminals who are brought together and embark on a crime spree, with a spectacular plot twist at the conclusion."

(The sentence could further be rendered more readable by deleting and embark.)

Todd didn’t provide any reason why examples, but here’s a particularly egregious one:

"The reason why I’m hungry is because I haven’t eaten in two days."

First off, you can’t follow a linking verb (is) with an adverb (because), so that whole part is out.  Second, and back to my main point, either reason, because or why is sufficient by itself.

Revisions:

"The reason I’m hungry is that I haven’t eaten in two days."

"I’m hungry because I haven’t eaten in two days."

So much for my diet, eh?  LOL

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