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Incidents vs. Incidence

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In formal writing situations, many writers attempt to make their writing overly technical or complex. This desire is understandable—academic and professional writing deal with more technical and complex topics than everyday English, and in these highly competitive settings, young writers often feel pressure to make themselves stand out from the crowd. While elevated language has its place, writers must still be careful in areas like word choice and sentence structure.

The homophones incidents and incidence both refer to multiple events, but there is an important difference in their meanings when they are used correctly. In academic and professional scenarios, you will need to remember which is which.

Origin:

The word incident originated from late Middle English: via Old French from Latin incident- ‘falling upon, happening to’, from the verb incidere, from in- ‘upon’ + cadere ‘to fall’. The word incidence originated from late Middle English (denoting a casual or subordinate event): from Old French, or from medieval Latin incidentia, from Latin incidere ‘fall upon, happen to’ (see incident).

Incident as noun:

The word incident is used as a noun and means an instance of something happening; an event or occurrence.

Several amusing incidents happened in the past week.

In law, incident means a privilege, burden, or right attaching to an office, estate, or other holding.

Incident as adjective:

As an adjective, incident means liable to happen because of; resulting from.

The changes incident to economic development are of utmost importance.

When light or other radiation is falling on or striking something, it is known as incident.

When an ion beam is incident on a surface, a charge is produced.

Incidence as noun:

The word incidence is used as a noun and means the occurrence, rate, or frequency of a disease, crime, or other undesirable thing.

Nowadays, there is an increased incidence of cancer.

In Physics, the intersection of a line, or something moving in a straight line, such as a beam of light, with a surface.

The point of incidence of the beam is at right angle.

ExamplThe high incidence of problematic behavior in structured settings is evidence that Colten struggles with focused attention and task perseverance.

Corrine has been tracking the incidence of attempted theft at her grocery store.

Significantly, the decline in new dementia cases, or incidence, occurred only with people who had at least a high school diploma. –The New York Times

Kelsey is back to work, but ever since the incident, she has been quiet and withdrawn.

“We had a little incident in the porta-potty,” said the toddler’s father.

The incident in 2014 could have led to a serious loss of military technology, officials told the paper. –BBC News

Incidents or incidence:

Incidence is a homophone of incidents, which causes confusion. An incident is one event. If the event happens more than once, incidence is the rate of occurrence for that event. You should only use incidence when referring to the rate or frequency of an event, and incident or incidents when referring to the events themselves.

 

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"Incidents vs. Incidence." Grammar.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2017. <http://www.grammar.com/incidents_vs._incidence>.

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