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.
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:
Incident as adjective:
Incidence as noun:
“We had a little incident in the porta-potty,” said the toddler’s father.
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.