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I wrote this sentence:

"Don't know if it was written intentionally. But I came across a piece of writing from a reputed source, where "antisocial" is written where "unsocial" would be appropriate."

Is it ok to use "where" twice in this sentence? Does this sentence make any sense?

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    It does make sense, and there are no rules about not repeating words- Your question, for example contains 2 a's- also perfectly fine as you probably know. Just always use the words that are required to convey the intended meaning, If that happens to be, "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo." then so be it.
    – Jim
    Dec 14, 2013 at 5:21
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    It strikes me as a little bit awkward – I might use although in place of the second where -- but it makes sense, and I believe that it is grammatically correct. Dec 17, 2013 at 17:54
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    I recommend writing this in one sentence and using “reputable” instead of “reputed”. I don't think your first sentence is especially clear. I guess you mean you don't know whether or not the author had a good reason for choosing one word over the other? I might instead write “I'm not sure if it was right or wrong, but I have seen a piece of writing from a reputable source wherein ‘antisocial’ is written where ‘unsocial’ would be appropriate.” Dec 20, 2013 at 0:20
  • "I came across a piece of writing from a reputable source where "antisocial" was written when "unsocial" would have been [more] appropriate"
    – Doc
    Jan 13, 2014 at 16:36

4 Answers 4

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Yes, it's okay, and it makes sense, but it's a bit awkward, somewhat like @Jim's example of "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo," though that is an extreme example of awkwardness that obscures the intended meaning, however logically clear it might actually be. In your example, the meaning is clear enough, though one might still have to read it over a couple extra times to be sure.

Another problem is that repetitive word use sometimes gets criticized, and syntactical variety is often taken as an element of good writing. You may want to explore the deeper issue, which is also addressed briefly here. As suggested there, you might consider some alternate word choices, such as,

  • "A reputed source, in which / wherein "antisocial" is written where "unsocial" would be appropriate,"

or alternate organizations, such as,

  1. "A reputed source, the author of which wrote "antisocial" where "unsocial" would be appropriate."

  2. "A reputed source that used "antisocial" where "unsocial" would be appropriate."

As an aside, you might also like to know the difference between unsocial and asocial. Even as a personality psychologist, I didn't know it myself, and had never seen the word "unsocial." I like it!

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The sentence as it is written is grammatically correct. Nearly all native speakers would understand it without difficulty. (I qualify that because speaking in absolutes is dangerous.)

However, as the comments have noted, repetition of the same word in one sentence is normally discouraged. (As an example, see Carolyn Jewel's site, which popped up in a quick search.) This isn't because it's syntactically wrong, it's because people are only human. Humans in general crave novelty, and when a writer misuses repetition, boredom sets in.

There are times and places where repetition is appropriate. AllWriteFiction discusses correct use of this writing technique. It's a powerful tool, but like any tool it can be damaging as well as creative.

Regarding the particular writing sample you're inquiring about, my personal reaction is to reword it slightly (in the same way Tyler James Young notes in the comments):

I don't know whether it was deliberate, but in this piece of writing I encountered recently, the author used antisocial in a context where I feel unsocial would fit better. It's a reputable source, but...

TL;DR: The sentence as written is technically correct, but should probably be reworded so as to avoid disconcerting the reader.

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  • Or just slip an "and" in front of the second "where."
    – wordsmythe
    Jan 13, 2014 at 16:45
  • @wordsmythe but fits better as "unsocial" is used to contrast "antisocial".
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 14, 2014 at 9:16
  • @wordsmythe: Not really. Where doesn't respond well to that form of repetition. I know the construction you're thinking of, something like "Its purpose is to increase effectiveness and to reduce response time". (Although even there dropping the second to isn't a sin.) Prepositions don't usually suffer from the same degree of word fatigue that other parts of speech do. Jan 14, 2014 at 15:15
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There are a few things I would change; the double "where" doesn't really bother me, but the punctuation, the missing subject pronoun, tense, and word order do. But your short text is quite acceptable. You could leave it at that and the reader would be informed.

In the end it's all a question of style. Anyway, here's my contribution.

  • I don't know if it was written intentionally but I was surprised to read from a reputable source, the word "antisocial" instead of "unsocial".

The preposition; instead of, is used in cases where one "thing" is substituted with another.
"He ordered chicken instead of fish"

I could use "when" as a conjunction,

  • I don't know if it was written intentionally, but I was surprised to come across the word "antisocial" when "unsocial" would have been more appropriate. And it was from a reputable [author/publication/newspaper etc.] too.

When 5. conj. Whereas; although: *She stopped short when she ought to have continued*

And finally, because that small piece could be rewritten fifty different ways, using where:

  • I don't know whether it was intentional or a misprint, but I was surprised to read in a reputable source the word "antisocial", where "unsocial" should have been used.

Where conj. 11. in or at which place; and there: "They came to the town, where they lodged for the night"

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If you only wish to follow the Flaubert's rule not to repeat the words, try:

But I came across a piece of writing from a reputed source, where "antisocial" is written whereas "unsocial" would be appropriate."

I wouldn't say the sentence mentioned is incorrect grammatically. But stylistically, it is not so good.

I would write instead:

But I have seen a text, in a reputed source, with the word "antisocial" used instead of the more appropriate "unsocial".

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  • Did you mean “I would say the sentence is correct grammatically”? What is Flober's rule? In your proposed correction, it should be “But I have once seen …” and “… instead of the more appropriate …” Jan 7, 2014 at 21:51
  • Of course, sorry. Corrected. Flober in XIX cent. had set this rule: A text, that has a word repeated on a page is considered "dirty". Of course, it is a very puristic rule. And every language has some words that are to be repeated. But with these exceptions it could be taken as an ideal, target state for the literature works. Not for instructions, of course.
    – Gangnus
    Jan 8, 2014 at 7:55
  • @TylerJamesYoung According to MErriam-Webster, merriam-webster.com/dictionary/reputed, the first meaning of reputed IS reputable. And I am trying to leave as much of the source text as possible.
    – Gangnus
    Jan 8, 2014 at 8:40
  • Who is this Flober? Sounds vaguely like Flaubert, who did hunt down repeated words, but Flaubert wrote in French. There is a strong dislike of repetitions in French, but this has no bearing on English. Jan 8, 2014 at 11:19
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    Oh, yes, thank you. I didn't know how they write him in English and used the pronunciation form. And rules for stylistics are mostly common to all languages.
    – Gangnus
    Jan 8, 2014 at 12:19

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