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

45  Comments on this Post

 
There was an error processing your information. Please try again later.
Thanks. We'll let you know when a new response is added.
Send me notifications when other members comment.

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
  • ncdmark
    Dam should be spelled (or spelt) "damn"
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • kosh66
    This one seems wrong. You cannot gratefully decline something. Its simply rude. You are effectively saying you are grateful to be declining the invite. Your explanation makes no sense. Surely you are indeed kindly and politely declining an invite. 
    40 pointsBadges:
    report
  • ddiamondblue
    I agree with Kosh66. If you substitute "politely" for "graciously" and "thankfully" for "gratefully" then it is obvious which one should be used.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • peterpppppp
    Agreed. One wouldn't gratefully decline anything unless they are trying to be rude, which would be the opposite of graciously declining.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • bevtru
    It seems that Ms. Wigmore missed the point of the question. It's not whether one accepts/declines graciously, but whether one declines gratefully/graciously. Needless to say, she picked the right adverb.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • maxgoof
    I have to disagree.

    Gratefully means "with gratitude". Now, you can interpret "gratefully decline" to mean "I am thankful for the invitation but I must decline" but it is more likely to be interpreted as, "Oh, thank God I don't have to attend your party..." which comes across as an insult. The reason being that the word "grateful" is next to the word "decline" rather than "invitation".

    Why not use the word "regretfully"?
     
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • JayS888
    I agree with Kosh, et al.  State that you graciously decline it (if you want to ensure that they know that you know you are being gracious, which would mean you are not being polite).  Or you can gratefully decline (without using the word 'gratefully') if you really didn't want to attend, but are thankful you have an excuse to bypass the function.  But please do not be so rude and crude as to tell them you're glad you don't have to attend.  Or, you could simply state, "so I’m going to have to decline your invitation."  Why put an extra word in there that will offend either Grammar Girl or the rest of us?  If you really want to 'graciously decline', then say, "I'm sorry, but I'm unable to come.  I truly wish I could come."  In which case, for graciousness' sake, don't add the reasons you can't come.  If the host pushes for more details, you are free to state that you have to attend your parents party that evening, and then run to your in-laws' party right afterwards, at which point the host should realize that you were being gracious, and not just coming up with excuses to gratefully get out of her party.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • JonFleming
    Taken another way, "gratefully" might suggest being grateful for the opportunity to decline the invitation.  A better choice might be, "I regret being unable to accept your gracious invitation." 
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • avenir1961
    Gratefully decline implies that you are declining gratefully, which is ambiguous at best.  Are you grateful because of the invitation or grateful because you are able to decline?
    In addition, grammatically speaking, you shouldn't split the infinitive "to decline".  Why not say "While I am grateful for the invitation, I must decline" and be done with it.  
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • dargannon
    kosh66 - no, by gratefully declining you are indicating that while you are grateful to be included in the invitation or receive an invitation, you must decline the invitation - not that you are grateful for the chance to decline (which you might be!)
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • idothisforaliving
    One gratefully accepts and graciously declines. POLITELY declines, not THANKFULLY declines. Sheesh.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • smajka
    And why would you "gratefully decline" anything?  That suggests to me that you are very relieved that you will not be able to attend.  I would prefer to "regrettably decline," or "decline with regret."
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Mitchells365
    Wrong! Graciously fits perfectly... "It’s ridiculous to state that you’re accepting or declining something kindly and politely." There is no logic to that sentence! You should definitely accept something politely. If you were to reject something gratefully, that would be rude, because it sounds like you are happy to reject the invitation. If you accept something gratefully, that sounds better logically, but it still sounds wrong grammatically. You say that people should learn grammar to not sound stupid, but you have screwed up at least two of these answers, and the only one sounding stupid right now is you. You think that bad grammar should annoy us, but what really annoys me is when some writes an informative article that is almost completely wrong
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • tamijay
    But if I reply that I'm gratefully declining your invitation, it sounds as though i'm relieved I don't have to attend. I would have said that I would have to regretfully decline.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • kosh66
    Seems we all agree Ms Wigmore got it wrong on this occasion. Would be nice to hear her view on it.   
    40 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Pastros
    It seems as though the expression made more sense in a previous era than it does now (as is evident by the comments' unanimous dissent). However, the contemporary incorrectness of "gratefully decline" does not imply the correctness of "graciously decline." I agree with the author that it makes more sense to be gracious in declining rather than describing yourself that way.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • FreshCoffee
    Agree with the posts I've read. I don't see the explanation as to why "gratefully" is the right answer. And why is it "ridiculous" to accept or decline something graciously? Perhaps one of the many grammar things I just don't get...
    60 pointsBadges:
    report
  • chukar71
    Well, I suppose I am a bit of a 'spoil sport', but my inclination is to say 'Respectfully' decline. The 'proper' use of the the two given choices have been more than adequately debated - I must dissent.
    30 pointsBadges:
    report
  • FreshCoffee
    chukar71...does not compute, does not compute! You just added an option that didn't previously exist...what if everyone did that. Soon there would be dogs dating cats and up would be down and the whole world would die...do you want to be responsible for that this Xmas season???
    60 pointsBadges:
    report
  • chukar71
    I must, respectfully, respond [LOL] to FreshCoffee. 
    Yes, I stand 'guilty as accused' of adding another option - Sorry, Your Honor, I just had to!
    As for what remains: I think the world condition has already arrived at that point and I will only say that "For that reason God sent His only begotten Son ..." Jn 3:16 ...

    And I must say, also: "Merry Christmas to All"! With a healthy dose of joy and good cheer for all.
    30 pointsBadges:
    report
  • FreshCoffee
    Amen brother. To you and yours as well.
    60 pointsBadges:
    report
  • wdgentech
    "...so I'm going to have to" (?!)

    Rather awkward to use the word "to" twice in three words, don' t ya think? That strikes me as very ironic in the context of this being a grammar quiz.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • kosh66
    I agree with  chukar71 re preferring to use respectfully.  
    40 pointsBadges:
    report
  • grammargenius
    Both are incorrect as this is a split infinitive.
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Pogotoo
    On the other hand, I think I would be offended if someone were grateful that they didn't have to accept an invitation from me.  It is A.

    Further, isn't "ever so" grateful a bit over the top?
    50 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Meggerola
    Actually, neither option is correct. To place either word in that position would split the infinitive "to decline", something one should avoid doing. The gracious way of handling this situation would be to say, "I have to decline your gracious invitation." That way, you are both complimentary and grammatically correct.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • chukar71
    Ah-h mmm ... Is there by chance an English teacher in the audience?
    We need a referee here, Please!  [LOL]
    30 pointsBadges:
    report
  • trlkly
    I must respectfully disagree. Or, actually, I won't be all that respectful, since apparently saying that I am is wrong.
    Of course you can specify you are graciously doing something. In fact, a synonym for this situation is to say "I must politely decline" or even "I must respectfully decline." Her logic would be to say I can't describe myself as being respectful, but I must do so.

    However, the context of the sentence makes "gratefully decline" clearly wrong, as the speaker is clearly indicating regret. Thus the speaker is not wishing to communicate that they are declining in a grateful manner. They are declining in an apologetic manner.

    The only way "gratefully decline" can work is if it is an idiom that has a meaning other than its literal one. But, even if that is case, it does not make "graciously decline" wrong.

    In fact, I so disrepectfully disagree that I tweeted a disrespectful comment. I wish I could take it back, because saying "I respectfully disagree" would be a lot better, but those are the breaks.
    50 pointsBadges:
    report
  • grammargenius
    Meggerola... Quit stealing my thunder.
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • puzzler47
    I would not use either one.  I am not glad or grateful that I will not attend, nor is it gracious to decline.    I would regretfully decline or just decline the invitation.  
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Pogotoo
    Answer is A.  And why "It’s ridiculous to state that you’re accepting or declining something kindly and politely."  What is ridiculous about being kind or polite?
    50 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Pogotoo
    Anyone who points out that neither is correct since it splits the infinitive is missing the point.  That has nothing to do with the subject at hand.  Further, it is argumentative since there are many grammarians who believe splitting infinitives is not incorrect in English since our grammar is not based on Latin grammar.  Yet further afield, NOT splitting an infinitive can result in awkward and stilted writing.  (Yes, I taught English and I am a published author, two books available on Amazon.) 
    50 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Dekawar
    Such a wonderful debate here.

    English is such a challenging language and my "correctness meter" goes off the scale all the time when I see it butchered due to either inept or uncaring instruction, or by the outright laziness of the pupil to even try getting simple things right (although with the new "Common Core" maybe our instructors' hands are tied, but acceptance of poor writing has been on the rise for a very long time).  Some of the worst offenses come with such things as when to use "then" versus "than" as the former places its subject into a time reference and the latter into a comparative statement.  ...but I digress.

    In the context of the choices for this proposed response, making the assumption (bad start here) that one or the other of these two choices "must" be correct rather than allowing that neither of them is so, it is indeed wrong to gratefully decline (as this would definitely be an insult).  Therefore, between the two provided options, and under the provided assumption (since no alternatives were given), "graciously" is the lesser evil and should have been given as the correct answer in this case.

    That said, among the many responses to this question, are much better alternatives if one is seeking to decline the invitation in a gracious manner.

    However, in the normal course of writing, one should not describe the actions they are taking while they are taking them.  For example, I should never describe myself as gracious or regretful, but rather I should BE gracious or regretful.  When stating my declination to an invitation I would say "I regret that I must decline your invitation" or "With regret, I must decline your invitation" and thus take action rather than describe the action I desire to take.  If I was going to describe my attempt at a graciousness to a third party, I might then appropriately indicate that "I regretfully declined their invitation", but I would not use that sentence while I am performing the action itself as that would be inappropriate.

    For better or worse, the author got this one wrong.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • Bubba44
    So you are saying that you are grateful for the decline.  I'll stick with graciously.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • bermuder
    @ncdmark Your vision must be poor. It says "darn," not "dam." I can see how "rn" could resemble an "m" if you're in need of a new vision correction.
    40 pointsBadges:
    report
  • saadia
    b: gratefully
    30 pointsBadges:
    report
  • seldon
    Totally disagree with your answer. If you gratefully decline it means you're glad to decline, whereas graciously means you are politely declining.
    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • BalletMamma

    So, by this thinking; we are "grateful to decline"?  While I admit, I would previously been in the "gracious decliner's corner"; perhaps we should all consider using neither adverb. 

    Possible replacements include:  regretfully, or sadly

    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • vijayrajendran
    gratefully means thankfully
    so you are thankful that you were offered something but unfortunately you are having to decline it

    10 pointsBadges:
    report
  • ncdmark
    @bermuder. At 7.23 on Christmas morning, shouldn't you be opening your presents, rather than commenting on my visual deficiency? I am -11 diopters so maybe I do need a check up. But darn resembles dam at first glance with or without corrected vision. Now go and resemble the turkey and get stuffed.
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • andrewtrent
    Gratefully=I am grateful
    Graciously =I am gracious
    No need to tell someone how
    Gracious you are when you use
    The word Grateful because it "shows"
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • BrowseBeforeWork
    I gratefully disagree!
     - Or -
    I gracefully disagree!

    Of the two reactions, which would the author prefer to receive?
    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • andrewtrent
    Gratefully disagreeing connotes to the author that although you disagree, you are Grateful for their opinion.  
    What a Gracious way of disagreeing !!!

    .

    20 pointsBadges:
    report
  • bermuder
    @ncdmark I have no idea where this website is based, but I posted my comment late at night, sometime after midnight, procrastinating with finishing up wrapping presents. No way am I up at 7:23 a.m. on a non-work day, not even Xmas! What a vile individual you are, to be sure.
    40 pointsBadges:
    report
  • bermuder
    I see now, GMT. I'm in the US, not the UK. So there you go.
    40 pointsBadges:
    report

Forgot Password

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an e-mail containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

Share this item with your network: