Re: I had to say it because I was afraid no one else would

Subject: Re: I had to say it because I was afraid no one else would
From: "Michael West" <mbwest -at- bigpond -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Sun, 8 Feb 2009 18:41:45 +1100

> > > About twenty years ago, I worked for a commercial baker (you know
> > > grocery store white boxes) as a secretary and had been asked to type a
> > > memo for a marketing manager because his own secretary was out that
> > > It was five pages written in long hand of the most liberty I've ever
> > > seen taken with our language. Terms like "incentivize" and "grow the
> > > business" abounded. So used to editing my own bosses' mutilated
> > > I blithely edited as I typed. To my astonishment, he came out of his
> > > office with the typed copy, red as a beet, demanding to know what
> > > I had to mutilate his words.

I suspect there are many on this list who would object to "incentivize" and
would recommend "incent" as a substitution on the basis that it is a "more
legitimate" word.

In fact, it isn't. "Incent" is a fairly recent back-formation from
"incentive". It has no more legitimacy than the nonce-verb "incentivize"
formed by adding "-ize" to a noun -- something almost everybody does

The verb most closely related to "incentive" is in fact "incite". It is also
related to the verb "incinerate". Those two verbs, however, have diverged
too far from "incentive" to be useful as replacements.

There could be very few objections, I would think, to using the construction
"provide incentives for [or 'to']" as a replacement for "incentivize". But
in business-to-business writing I see nothing wrong with "incentivize" as a
more concise bit of jargon, assuming that its referent would be clear in the
context of the paragraphs in which it appeared. Business people know what it
means, and there is no single verb that means the same thing. Nether
"encourage" or "promote" or "motivate" or "reward" are understood, by
themselves, in the specific sense of "putting incentives in place" or
"rewarding by means of incentives".

I would hesitate to use "incentivize" only if I feared offending the easily
offended and the pretentious.

Mike West


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