Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

Nov 24 2013   11:38PM GMT

Is it inethical or unethical?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?

interrobang Be careful out there on Black Friday, and Cyber Monday too — _____ retailers will be pulling out the old bait and switch gag.
a. inethical
b. unethical

Answer: b

Explanation:

Why is unethical right? It just is. Like the ibles vs. ables issue, you pretty much just have to learn which words take which suffix or prefix. As Michael Quinion explains on World Wide Words, there is a rule — just not one that will do most of us any good. It’s kind of interesting, though. Here’s an excerpt:

There is a rule, but it’s only of value to somebody who knows which language the root word came from, so it’s really no help at all for most of us. In general, words take un- when they are of English (Germanic) origin and in- if they come from Latin. (The forms im-il-, and ir- are variations on in-.) Apart from that, there’s really no good guide to which one you should choose. You’re just going to have to stick to learning them by rote.

Let’s see how people are doing with this one…

Google poll:

inethical – 1,330,000 hits

unethical – 3,440,000 hits

That’s a pretty significant number of people getting it wrong. I had to stop and think about which was correct the other day, which is why I wrote this post. The best thing to do in that situation? Look it up.

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