Concerning vs. Disconcerting: Make The Right Choice

dad_kid_bike_safetyWhich do you say: “Her behavior is concerning” or “Her behavior is disconcerting”?

We all feel concern at some point in our lives: concern for our children’s safety, concern about job security, concern about whether a storm might delay a flight, concerns about health.

Concern is a noun defined as something that relates to or pertains to a person, business or affair; a matter that engages a person’s attention, interest or care, or that affects a person’s welfare of happiness.

Concerning is a preposition that means relating to something or someone; regarding; about. It most often is used to introduce something, so it’s followed by an object and words that complete the thought.

Here are examples of how concerning is used correctly:

We met with the traffic director concerning adding a stop sign at the school crosswalk.
Seth and I had a conversation concerning the new supermarket being built in our community.
The manager’s weak approach to dealing with issues concerning habitually late employees is unacceptable.

Note that related to, regarding or about could easily be substituted for concerning in each case.

Here are incorrect ways to use concerning as an adjective that means something is cause for concern, worrisome, alarming or troublesome. Many would not consider these statements Standard English:

Facebook has some concerning content.
It’s concerning that so few students follow the dress code.
There have been a number of failures in the inspection process that I find concerning.

Disconcerting is a more grammatical way to express concern.

These rewrites for the three examples above correctly express something worrisome, something troubling, something that is cause for concern:

Facebook has some concerning content.
Some Facebook content is disconcerting.
Some Facebook content concerns me.

It’s concerning that so few students follow the dress code.
It’s disconcerting that so few students follow the dress code.
It’s troublesome that so few students follow the dress code.

There have been a number of failures in the inspection process that I find concerning.
There have been a number of failures in the inspection process that I find worrisome.
Failures in the inspection process are of concern to me.

You can say, “I find his behavior concerning,” and hope others interpret your statement to mean that you have concerns about someone’s behavior.

But careful speakers and writers might respond with the query, “His behavior concerning what?”

Avoid ambiguity. Promote clarity. Recognize the difference between concerning, which means related to, and disconcerting, which means something unsettling.

Are there words you hear every day that don’t sound right to you? Sent them my way!

Meanwhile, if you found this post helpful, please pass it on to your friends, colleagues and clients.

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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