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incentivize, incent

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  Ed Good  —  Grammar Tips
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These words, probably concocted in some business school, date from the 1970s. Both mean “to motivate or encourage.” Technically, they mean “to provide incentives.” The word incentivize is one of those noun-to-verb words formed by adding the suffix -ize. Its first cousin is prioritize.

The word incentive is a perfectly good noun.

The word incent has only one redeeming feature: it’s shorter.

Good writers avoid these words. Use motivate or encourage or provide incentives.

Example: The company’s new package of incentives should motivate the employees to put in longer hours.

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3 Comments

  • Mark Farnsworth
    While we have a strong tendency to assign value judgements to words, we might just as well criticize the water in a puddle for taking on the shape of the hole it sits in. Why is shorter better, or longer worse? In a culture where time is money, valuing economy in the use of phonemes and syllables seems unsurprising.  So the question is this: what do we really value in language? That 'less is more' like in some modern schools of literary thought? That more syllables equal more gravitas, as embraced by academia? That it stay true to its historical roots, like worshippers of Greek and Latin? That it rhyme or be expressed in iambic pentameter? That it not offend some set of sensibilities orthogonal to language? Language is the messenger, the medium for pulling the meaning out of my head and conveying it into your head. That is not to say that no standards can ever apply -- having no shared standard means that no communication can ever take place. But everybody benefits when we can step back and look critically at bad assumptions and maybe swap them out for better ones. 
    LikeReplyReport 41 year ago
  • Walter Witt
    Well if we can incentivize then I guess we can preventivize. Funny I can't find preventivize anywhere. Really can't we just say incent and prevent or do we have to add this dopey suffix to sound more sophisicated?
    LikeReplyReport 111 year ago
  • Bryan Wilson
    When my whole life has been post 1970s, the word "incentivize" sounds perfectly normal and I have no problem using it. It's a real word. It has a different conotation than "motivate" (carrot-on-a-stick vs personnal fulfillment). And I'd never think someone using it is a "bad writer." 
    LikeReplyReport 62 years ago

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