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Write the Right Word: About, Around and Across

“Around” seems to have become a popular substitute for “about” or “across.”

You’ve probably seen, or heard, statements such as these: “The movie will start around 3 p.m.” “We’ve scheduled meetings around the state.” And my favorite: “I’ll meet you around about noon.”

The problem with using “around” is that it means “surrounding.” So in the meetings example, you’re saying you are holding them in surrounding states, not in the state. Better ways to say this are: “We’ve scheduled meetings across the state” or “We’ve scheduled meetings throughout the state.”

"Around" also is vague and open to interpretation. If you want people to show up for an event on time, you need to be precise: “The movie will start at 3 p.m.”

If you mean to give people a little leeway, then use “about” or “approximately.” For example: “I’ll meet you about noon.” That tells others you will meet them at noon or as close to it as possible. Or this: “The fundraiser brought in approximately $2,500.” That means this figure is accurate within a few dollars.

Ellen Crawford, Information Specialist, (701) 231-5391

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