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In formal/academic writing, I see some people start a quote by using "someone says" and others "as someone says...". For example,

  1. Toni Morrison argues that "the process of organizing American coherence through a distancing Africanism became the operative mode of a new cultural hegemony." (8)
  2. As Toni Morrison argues, "the process of . . .

What's the difference between sentences 1 and 2? Is this a problem of style or does the meaning also differ?

Thanks.

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  • Welcome to the site. Nice question.
    – Hugh
    Jun 28, 2015 at 22:20

2 Answers 2

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The distinction is in which fact is being asserted by the writer.

"X says that A" is a report by the author on what X says. The fact being presented is the fact that X said A, probably more than once. It's a description of habitual action by X.

"As X says, A" is the author saying A, very likely in agreement with X. The author is using X's habitual statement to backup the author's own stance on A, usually in an effort to bolster the credibility of that stance.

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  • Yes, but another way of looking at it is that given assertion A, a speaker who introduces it as X says [that] A is very likely to be either endorsing or dismissing either X or A - depending on whether X is a respected person, and/or A is an unlikely proposition. So John says [that] the moon is made of green cheese probably means the speaker thinks John is "away with the fairies". Whereas As X says, A usually implies that the truth of A isn't even a contentious point (but the precise wording of A may well be novel and/or striking). Jun 28, 2015 at 20:47
  • Fair, but I think both statements need context to be sure. The "As X says, A" construct can easily be used sarcastically too, providing a deliberately fabricated opposite quite for comedic effect. "As Putin says, live and let live!" The English language is grand like that; and so all the qualifiers in my answer. I still think the germane difference is whether the author is primarily talking about the other speaker, or about the topic at hand. Jun 28, 2015 at 21:42
  • Of course. Context is everything. (And let's face it - with a bit of contrivance, context can also be almost anything! :) Jun 28, 2015 at 23:40
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"Toni says" introduces a fact, that Toni has uttered the words that are to follow. "As Toni says" in addition indicates that the following words are germane to or supportive of a line of argument.

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