Explanations: Would you accept these sentences?

Here you will find the explanations to the previous article, Would you accept these sentences?

Are you as picky as the panelists?

  1. Her behavior during these negotiations really aggravated me.

Green light. Although “aggravate” traditionally means “to make worse,” not “to irritate,” two-thirds of the panel would accept this sentence.

  1. We are anxious to receive your proposed changes on the draft agreement.

Yellow light. Purists insist that “anxious” reflects a psychological state of worry and is not a synonym for “eager.” Yet about half the panelists would permit “anxious” in a sentence such as this one.

  1. Please let me know if you have any questions as regards our settlement


Red light. In a recent survey, three-fourths of the panelists rejected this stylistic monstrosity. Try “about” instead.

  1. The board is comprised of seven directors.

Green light. Although the war against “is comprised of” is popular among grammar mavens, who love to point out that “the whole comprises the parts,” nearly two-thirds of the Usage Panel would accept “ís comprised of” here.

  1. The lawyers in New York are different than the lawyers in Chicago.

Red light. Three out of five panelists reject “different than” when comparing two nouns. “Different” should take “from” in these cases, at least in American English (the Brits often use “different to”). But note that “different than” is always acceptable before a complete clause: “The lawyers in New York are different than they were 20 years ago.”

  1. I won’t be able to propose a settlement value until we are farther along in the discovery process.

Red light. Traditionalists use “farther” only for physical space, so they would insist on “further” here. Two-thirds of the panel members would agree.

  1. We will send you more information once we finalize plans for the retreat.

Red light. In a 1997 survey, about three-quarters of the panelists rejected this usage as corporate-speak. Try “complete our plans for the retreat” or, even better, “finish planning the retreat.”

  1. Some people find ERISA dull. However, my office mate finds it exciting.

Yellow light. Like lawyers, the panel members are split on this one: 55% recently reported that they “always” or “sometimes” avoid starting sentences with “however.” Tip: If you put “however” later in the sentence, it should follow the contrasting word or phrase. Here, “some people” are contrasted with the office mate: “My office mate, however, finds it exciting.”

  1. Your foul mood is impacting our ability to finish the due-diligence report and go home.

Red light. A whopping 80% of the panelists would reject this popular usage, as do I. Try affecting or hurting. Even better: “Your foul mood is making it harder for us to finish the due-diligence report and go home.”

  1. I need to incentivize my colleagues to finish their billing for the month.

Red light. For 94% of the panelists, incentivize is “trendy jargon.” By the way, just in case you want to sneak in “incent” instead, an overwhelming 96% percent of the panelists reject that one as well. I hope their views incentivize you to substitute “encourage” or “urge” here instead.