Wordwatch Towers

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

Prescribe, subscribe and proscribe

leave a comment »

Cover of the January 1948 (vol. 29 issue 1) is...
Image via Wikipedia

Now, I don’t read Esquire, but I happened to be looking over the shoulder of someone who does, and spotted this:

I don’t exactly prescribe to the ‘more of them to love’ mantra, but I do prescribe to the truism ‘more of them to manipulate’.

‘Prescribe’? That, surely, should be ‘subscribe’.

‘Prescribe’ is what a doctor does when recommending and authorising a medicine. It also means to state authoritatively that something must be done. See Oxford Dictionaries.

‘Subscribe’ has a few different meanings: See Oxford Dictionaries.  In the case of the Esquire piece,  ‘subscribe to’ should have been used (to mean ‘agree with’).

I haven’t seen this particular error before; it’s far more common to confuse ‘prescribe’ with ‘proscribe’. The latter means to forbid or denounce. See Oxford Dictionaries on this particular confusion (scroll down to ‘usage’).

More commonly confused words and phrases



Your questions and comments are welcome.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: