The Grammarphobia Blog

Incentive payback

Q: A curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York was quoted as saying that “risk has been incentivized.” Yuck! Any comments?

A: Someone in the arts has no business using that kind of bureaucratese. Leave it to the CEOs and politicians. In fact, the “incentivize” entry in The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language gives an example of the word at work by quoting a politician: “This bill will help incentivize everybody to solve that part of the problem.”

While we’re on the subject, “incentivize” is bad enough, but people are now using “incent” as a verb. (“We need to incent our sales team.”) Jeepers! What’s wrong with offering the sales team an incentive? Both “incent” and “incentivize” make me incensed.

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