Wordwatch Towers

A plain language guide to punctuation, grammar and writing well.

Incent? INCENT??

with 20 comments

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Now I like a good neologism (definition below) as much as the next person — especially computer-age related stuff such as ‘wetware’ meaning brain (as opposed to software and hardware), ‘netiquette’ meaning how we should behave online, and, of course, ‘blog’, short for weblog (also a neologism).

But some neologisms should be quietly strangled at birth as a kindness. Look at this spotted on eBay:

Get a free icon on your item by offering postage discounts to incent buyers for purchasing multiple items.

Incent, of course, being used as a shortened form of ‘incentivize’. Wow, that word hit every branch of the ugly tree on its way down, didn’t it?

P.S. Shouldn’t that be: “…incent buyers to purchase multiple items“, or am I completely missing the point?

(‘Neologism’ — a new word or expression.)

More neologisms



20 Responses

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  1. Believe me or not, this is the first time I am hearing of the word ‘incent’!

    See the punctuation mark (!) in the above line. It is correct or wrong? The mark (!) should be before or after the quotes as I have put?

  2. I saw a pet-friendly site use the term “petiquette”–to be burned, stamped on, and drowned, too.

    Michael Farrell

    09/01/2010 at 4:19 pm

    • Yes — that’s truly horrible. And a bit weird as it sounds like ‘petticoat’ when spoken aloud and so doesn’t quite ‘work’ anyway. I am intrigued by ‘pet-friendly’ sites — that’s a phrase I haven’t come across before!


      09/01/2010 at 4:49 pm

  3. There you go. 🙂 It was on the FB group “Bay Area Pets,” for pet lovers near San Francisco.

    Michael Farrell

    09/01/2010 at 4:57 pm

  4. Many neologisms are forced and ugly and deserve their short shelf-lives. Here’s one: “locavore.” As used in a Globe & Mail headline: “The Island’s oft-neglected east coast offers locavore cooking, calm winter fishing and close encounters with sea life.” I’m now off my feed.

    Michael Farrell

    09/01/2010 at 5:56 pm

    • That is as ugly as something very ugly indeed.


      09/01/2010 at 6:17 pm

  5. And why not just say “as an incentive,” anyway? Or “to encourage” customers? I’m tired of nouns being made into verbs. Bah humbug.

    Maggie Manning

    19/01/2010 at 9:10 pm

  6. Why not indeed – I couldn’t agree more. Thanks, Maggie.


    19/01/2010 at 9:20 pm

  7. or just “discounts to those who purchase [or, for purchasing] multiple items”? See how clear things will be when we’re finally in charge? When is that, anyway, since my calendar is quickly filling up?

    Michael Farrell

    19/01/2010 at 9:27 pm

  8. Unfortunately, one year to the day of the inauguration of the USA President and the loss of an historic Democratic seat, perhaps the neologism “NOBAMA” needs to be stamped on if the hopes and aspiration of millions of Americans are to come to fruition.

    Lizi B

    20/01/2010 at 9:50 am

    • Thanks, Lizi B — that’s an interesting one. Given the strength of his ‘Yes we can’ slogan, I don’t think he’ll want to see this particular neologism adopted quite so widely.


      20/01/2010 at 11:53 am

  9. Mr O borrowed that slogan from Hispanic farm-workers and activists (“Si, se puede”).

    Michael Farrell

    20/01/2010 at 4:44 pm

    • That’s interesting – I didn’t know that. Thanks, Michael.


      20/01/2010 at 4:47 pm

  10. Also, when they put “for purchasing”, isn’t that suggesting the past tense? (Maybe it’s Ebay trying to be arrogant and say: “Yeah, look at us, whatever we put on, sells!”). So like you rightly say, it should be “to purchase”.

    Also, just reading Vikas’s first post, the punctuation mark on the fifth line, that right?


    13/05/2011 at 8:35 pm

    • Hi, Aky

      I’d forgotten about this post! I don’t think ‘for purchasing’ would suggest the past tense — although the terrible construction of that horrible sentence makes me quite tense.

      I’m not sure which punctuation mark you are referring to in Vikas’ comment?


      14/05/2011 at 5:21 pm

      • “Believe me or not, this is the first time I am hearing of the word ‘incent’!”

        Should it not be ‘incent!’?


        14/05/2011 at 6:51 pm

        • Hi, again!

          No — Vikas is correct. The exclamation mark is being used instead of a full stop to end the sentence. The inverted commas (or quote marks) around the word ‘incent’ are just being used to highlight or draw attention to that particular word in the sentence (as I just did in this sentence).


          14/05/2011 at 8:07 pm

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