A Cause for Concern

By Maeve Maddox

It’s a cause for concern that many professional journalists and consultants of various kinds are muddling the idioms “a cause for concern” and “gives one pause” to create the meaningless hybrid “a pause for concern.”

Here are some examples, taken from serious news and consulting sites:

Why the Latest Economic Reports Should Give Pause for Concern

Fewer high school grads in the Midwest give colleges pause for concern

Dad’s snores give pause for concern

Under the current version of the LEED building rating program (3.0), there are a few interesting wrinkles that should give pause for concern among owners, developers, contractors and subcontractors.

…the report also revealed some information that should give us pause for concern. 

The idiom a cause for concern means “a reason to feel anxiety.” Here are some examples of its correct use:

Threatening Remarks by Swazi Prime Minister Cause for Concern

Antibacterial household products: cause for concern
 
Recent market changes cause for concern

The idiom gives one pause means “causes a person to stop and think more carefully about something.” Here are some examples in which this expression is used correctly:

What does seem clear though is that when one considers the volume and duration of the government’s data gathering effort, it gives one pause. 

There’s something about communicating with those working to master basic English that gives one pause.

It gives one pause to consider that those same forces of natural selection responsible for the diversity, abundance, and efficacy of life forms on this world are also operative on the biospheric, global scale. 

One happening in his news-purveying always stood forth sharply if laughably in memory, an additional item that gave him pause with regard to the strangeness of human destiny.

The verb pause means, “to stop or interrupt an action.”

Be sure to pause before writing the non-idiom “to give pause for concern.”

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1 Response to “A Cause for Concern”

  • Nancy R.

    As you say, “The verb *pause* means, “’to stop or interrupt an action.’”
    There is one reason I can see that “pause for concern” might be permitted in the example “Dad’s snores give pause for concern.” The writer is making a play-on-words– Snoring is often combined with sleep apnea, a temporary pause in breathing. 🙂

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