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.
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!
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