Saturday, March 22, 2008

Word of the Week: practicable

I wrote this sentence in a newsletter I do for a client: “Of course, in deciding what steps to take, you’ll want to assess affordability, effectiveness, and whether they are practicable for your business.” The client circled practicable and wrote next to it: practical?

When I saw my client’s comment, I thought, “No, I meant practicable”. Frankly, I was even a bit irritated because I thought, “I wish they’d have looked it up – then they would have understood it was a fine word in that context.” Then, just to be sure I hadn’t misused the word, I looked it up.

Here’s how Merriam-Webster on-line defines practicable:

1 capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished: feasible 2:capable of being used: usable.
Though I was satisfied that practicable was appropriate, I had to decide whether I wanted to go back to the client and explain that practicable was fine. That’s when it dawned on me that if my client isn’t familiar with the word, chances are others won't be familiar with it either. After that, I realized that instead of expecting readers to look it up, or -- worse yet -- risk having readers assume it was a typo, I should simply choose a more straightforward word.

So, being one who tries to practice what I preach about using plain language, and looking back at the definition, I’m going to recommend “feasible” instead.


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