Commentary Magazine


To Be Sure

To the Editor:

How about a moratorium on “to be sure”? I counted nine in the February issue. . . . George Orwell . . . said that a scrupulous writer will ask himself whether his text can be shortened, and whether he has said anything unavoidably ugly. To be sure fails on both counts.

Benjamin Lefkowitz
Palo Alto, California

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Although, to be sure, nine tbs’s are excessive for one issue, we feel that the phrase allows for a concession to other points of view without too noisy a screeching of rhetorical gears. To be sure, it also enables the writer to avoid that most egregious violation of good intellectual manners—explication of the obvious—while at the same time delicately signifying his awareness that some of his readers may perhaps be in need of just such explication.—Ed.

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