Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

Aug 7 2012   1:06PM GMT

Graciously accept or graciously decline? You may do either — but can you say you’re doing so?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
I have already committed to two holiday parties on that evening, so I’m going to have to _________ decline your invitation.
a. graciously
b. gratefully


Answer: b.

Explanation:
Graciously means “in a kind and polite manner.” It’s ridiculous to state that you’re accepting or declining something kindly and politely.

It’s not that you can’t do things graciously. By all means, whether you’re accepting or declining, do it graciously. You can graciously accept an apology, for example, by not repeating a list of grievances as you do so. You can graciously decline an invitation by saying that you wished you could attend but have a prior engagement — rather than saying, for example, that you want to wait and see if something more enticing is happening that weekend.

Google poll:
I graciously accept: 298,000 hits

I’d expected that many of those would be expressions of annoyance at people saying they “graciously accept” this or that. Or looking for advice on how to graciously accept this or that. But no. It’s mostly people announcing that they are “graciously accepting” this or that. Stop it. Just stop it. I’d be ever so grateful.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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