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Write the Right Word: Incidents vs. Incidence

“Incidents” and “incidence” are not interchangeable, even though they sound alike.

“Incidents” are events or occurrences. For example: “Researchers have found no evidence that the two incidents of foodborne illness are related.”

“Incidence” refers to the range or rate of occurrence of something, especially something unwanted. For example: “The high incidence of heart disease in men 40 and older is alarming.”

“Incidence” also can refer to an affecting occurrence. For example: “The incidence of stem rust in wheat in 2013 prompted Extension specialists to warn producers.”

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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