Writing for Business

Apr 11 2013   12:48PM GMT

Torturous path or tortuous?

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Poor Apple Maps. It took a ________ path, full of twists and turns that were not adequately described in the directions, ending in firings and apologies.
a. torturous
b. tortuous

Answer: b.

A tortuous path is one with lots of twists and turns, as above. A torturous path may be just as twisty but might also include people at each turn of the path poking you with sharp sticks. Because torturous is the adjectival form of torture.

In this case, the path may have been tortuous AND torturous. There probably was some torture involved — nobody likes to be fired, of course. However, if you’re describing something with lots of twists and turns, the word you’re looking for is tortuous.

Lots of examples of errors in the online media. Here are a couple that popped up on the first page of results:

From the Orlando Sentinel:
Ban on texting starts torturous path in Legislature

From IAVI Report:
A less torturous path for antibodies

See more on the tortuous path of Apple Maps: (Hint: The article’s entitled “Google Maps is back on the iPhone and will fix everything that’s wrong with your life.”)

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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