Incentivized and mitigated

After 10+ years and 215 articles, my language column at Macmillan Dictionary has come to an end – as indeed has the blog Macmillan Dictionary Blog itself, for now. Here are my last two posts.

Militate against mitigate looks at this pair of similar words, setting out how each one is used, why they’re easily confused, and how to remember the difference:

Because mitigate (reduce harmful effects) is sometimes like a subset of militate (have an effect), people often use mitigate when they mean militate. We know this because they write *mitigate against. Usually the writer means militate against, but not necessarily. Readers can’t always figure it out, and it isn’t their responsibility. It’s up to writers and editors to know the difference and militate against the error.

Are you incentivized to use this word? plays devil’s advocate for a much-maligned word, reviewing the usage commentary on it and showing why it’s likely to stick around:

Over time, we get used to new usages. We accept them grudgingly or even enthuse about them. Decades later, the ones that survive have become thoroughly familiar and lack the stigma of novelty. The verb contact, for instance, was loathed a century ago but is perfectly unremarkable today. Until that happens, though, these usages provoke contention, with many people looking askance at them or criticizing them vocally. So it is with incentivize.

13 Responses to Incentivized and mitigated

  1. That’s a shame, Stan. One of the best language blogs I know. Where can we see you now?

  2. mary blockley says:

    sadness brought me here; happy to be relieved

  3. bevrowe says:

    Dear Stan

    So sad to see you go. I have very much enjoyed your posts

    But why are you stopping?


    Bev Rowe

    • Stan Carey says:

      Thanks, Bev. My writing here will continue sporadically, in case that wasn’t clear. The Macmillan Dictionary column is stopping because the entire blog there is stopping, at least for now. There seems to be considerable corporate shake-up going on at Macmillan Education.

  4. I have always enjoyed reading this blog (?), So whatever you post, I hope I’ll continue to be notified. I’ve loved the comparisons between pond sides, and the book spine poetry, and I’ve been inspired to read or purchase books based on your in-depth discussions, reviews and recommendations (still reading the one about the semicolon). I would miss you if you stopped posting.

    • Stan Carey says:

      That’s very kind of you, bluebird. I enjoy writing here, especially when readers respond in the comments, and I intend to keep it going, however irregularly – it can be hard to find the time and inspiration with all that’s going on.

      • What’s been happening on this planet is so insane, it’s depressing. I for one can’t be creative when I’m depressed. I’m grateful to be working and paying my bills. We can only do the best we can. Perhaps you’ll find time and inspiration when some of this is behind us. Best wishes for happy endings ☮️

  5. Nancy Friedman says:

    That’s a damn shame about the Macmillan blog, Stan. The best language resources on the web are folding their tents–first Lingua Franca, now this.

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