Write Right: At Around

Write RightToday’s lesson is a practical one. It’s one that marketers and content writers can put into action immediately. It won’t hurt too much, either. All it will involve is choosing one word or the other.

First, an example: “The vase sells at around $500.” A glance at the phrase might not cause a person to pause. It doesn’t sound all that wrong, does it? Perhaps not.

A secondary glance might cause a person to pause, particularly if that person knows her prepositions. The sentence contains two prepositions, “at” and “around.” A little awkward to be certain, and most definitely wordy. More worrisome, though, is that the two prepositions mean different things.

“At” suggests an exact amount. If the vase sells at $500, it sells at $500. No more, no less. “Around” is an approximation. If the vase sells around $500, it might sell for a bit more or a bit less. Who’s to say except the person selling the vase? That person must make a choice, and it’s dependent upon whether the vase sells for $500. If it does, the person must choose “at.” If it doesn’t, the person is free to use “around.” The person is not free to use both words; doing so results in a crowded, confusing sentence.

Have you seen some copy that could use a Write Right perspective? Do you have a writing question you would like me to answer? Let me know in an email or on my Facebook page.

Comments

  1. Yes but… Sometimes a national advertiser may need to communicate imprecise information. An item may cost $498 in North Carolina but $502 in California due to local factors. So “at around” or “for about” may be as close as they can get. But because they’re good writers, they’ll usually have a disclaimer: “Prices may vary by location; please check with your local retailer.” (I just wanted be contrary.) 

  2. Yes but…Sometimes a national advertiser may need to communicate imprecise information. An item may cost $498 in North Carolina but $502 in California due to local factors. So “at around” or “for about” may be as close as they can get.But because they’re good writers, they’ll usually have a disclaimer: “Prices may vary by location; please check with your local retailer.”(I just wanted to be contrary.)

    • barrettrossie Contrariness is welcomed.You’re right, but I would think there’s a better way to express imprecise information. Maybe it’s simply that “at around” sounds wrong to my ear.

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