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Are the following sentences okay? Are they interchangeable?

He is a fraud, a common thief in other words.

He is a common thief, a fraud in other words.

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  • I think it’s a stylistic choice. Sep 12, 2021 at 11:26
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    In a criminal sense, a thief is someone who steals; someone who commits fraud is someone who obtains something by deception, sometimes called a 'fraudster'. If we call a person 'a fraud' we mean he or she is a person wishing to deceive others, typically by unjustifiably claiming or being credited with accomplishments or qualities (e.g. a spiritual 'medium'). They don't mean the same thing. So 'in other words' would not be appropriate. Sep 12, 2021 at 11:35
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    If the person had obtained money by fraud, you could say 'in other words, he's a thief' or 'he's a thief in other words' in that he had effectively stolen other people's money - but it wouldn't work the other way round. Sep 12, 2021 at 13:16
  • I don't think putting "in other words" after the "other words" is correct. I would say: He is a fraud, in other words a common thief. (Or the other way around.)
    – randomhead
    Sep 12, 2021 at 23:32
  • The punctuation could be improved. "He is a fraud: a common thief, in other words." Why? because "in other words" relates to "a common thief", not just "thief". Without the comma, it sounds syntactically more like "thief in a striped shirt".
    – JavaLatte
    Sep 13, 2021 at 1:29

1 Answer 1

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Normally, we use "in other words" to simplify something, or to give a more commonly used/understood rendition of what we just said.

Your example seems wrong either way, because a "fraud" and a "common thief" are not the same things. A 'fraud' is often someone who commits elaborate crimes, confidence tricks, perhaps posing as someone or something they are not; whereas a 'common thief' is someone who commits the most elementary crimes like burglary, pickpocketing etc.

A better example would be one where you use less-common words for something, and then clarify it with the more common one:

He was a double-dealer, a four-flusher, a mountebank. In other words, a fraud.

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