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But what Alex (a gray parrot) once did outside of the laboratory was even more impressive.

Hi,
Is "of" in the bolded phrase optional to you? Thanks.
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It's unnecessary, not optional.
Hi, Mr. Wordy,

Could you discuss the difference?

Best wishes, - A.
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"Optional" means that it's OK to use it, and it's OK not to use it.

"Unnecessary" suggests that you shouldn't use it.
AvangiCould you discuss the difference?
Sorry Avangi, if you instead meant "discuss the difference between 'outside' and 'outside of' ", then there is none. "Outside of" is (to me) just an ugly and unnecessary way of saying "outside".

I just found this at http://www.thefreedictionary.com/outside :

USAGE: The use of outside of and inside of, although fairly common, is generally thought to be incorrect or non-standard: she waits outside (not outside of) the school.

The only quibble I have with this is that "fairly common" should probably be "very common".
Mr Wordy"Unnecessary" suggests that you shouldn't use it.
Wow!
CJ
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Hi Mr Wordy, thanks for your replies. The first one best connected with my intended question. I believe I shared CJ's surprise, but needed to know how you were looking at it.

Thanks again, - A.

Edit. I was pleased to see that your quote sort of equated "incorrect" and "non-standard." I got in trouble with an anonymous poster in the linguistics forum by paraphrasing "non-standard" as "bad English."

Incidently, where do you stand on "backward" and "toward" vs. "backwards" and "towards"? I was taught in US grammar school the the "s" is forbidden.
AvangiI was pleased to see that your quote sort of equated "incorrect" and "non-standard."
Depending on your point of view, "non-standard" is either a politically correct euphemism for "incorrect", or a legitimate way to indicate that you do not believe there is any "right" and "wrong", just that different people have different ways of using a language (one of which is labelled "standard").
AvangiIncidently, where do you stand on "backward" and "toward" vs. "backwards" and "towards"? I was taught in US grammar school the the "s" is forbidden.
I use the "s", except when "backward" is an adjective. ("I ran backwards", "I ran towards him", but "A backward glance".) However, there appear to be US/UK differences here; see http://www.askoxford.com/asktheexperts/faq/usage/backward (which, incidentally, seems contradictory).
Thank you kindly, MW
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