Comment or Commentate; Orient or Orientate?

Does a word ever offend your ears and stop your thought process in its tracks?

Language and its usage evolve, but when I heard someone use commentate as a verb, I scrambled to see if any source considers it a valid word.

comment | commentate

comment as a noun: a spoken or written remark expressing an opinion or reaction
comment as a verb: to express an opinion or a reaction
commentate as a verb: to give a commentary on; to comment in a usually expository or interpretive manner; to act as a commentator

Was I surprised! I thought commentate was to comment what orientate is to orient: an incorrect and clunky term. I was wrong, but that doesn’t mean I plan to use either anytime soon.

orient | orientate | orientation

orient as a verb: to align or position something; to find one’s position in relation to new and strange surroundings
orientate as a verb: considered a synonym for orient, but less common in the United States than in the United Kingdom
orientation as a noun: a state of being oriented; location or position in relation to something such as the points of a compass

Although you won’t be violating a written-in-stone grammar rule if you use orientate, it often is shunned and considered pompous in American English.

And why use orientate, a four-syllable word, when the three-syllable orient will do?

Both commentate and orientate are verbs for which I prefer — and recommend — the shorter version of each: to comment and to orient

Note: Avoid Orient and Oriental when referring to East Asian nations and their peoples. Asian is the acceptable term for inhabitants of those regions.

Don’t embarrass yourself by using the wrong word when you’re in the spotlight at work or in meetings with clients.

For other words that can trip you up, consider adding Barbara McNichol’s second edition of Word Trippers to your collection of reference books. You’ll find nearly 400 word pairings that in many cases sound alike but have different meanings.

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Want to improve accuracy in your writing and boost your professionalism every week? You have choices! Either order Barbara’s book (links above) or enroll in her Word Trippers Tips, which puts a new Word Tripper in your inbox each week. It’s delivered as a yearlong subscription so the learning “drips” in gradually — and sticks!

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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