Acceptable To vs. Acceptable By

Sometimes those itty-bitty, two-bit prepositions after a word can change the entire meaning of a sentence.

For example, say you are writing a contract for an engineering company to build an offshore platform for your oil company, Big Oilco. You don’t want to specify every exact nut and bolt, but you want to set some boundaries, and anything inside those boundaries is OK to include in the project, and everything outside those boundaries needs approval from Big Oilco first.

Here is what you would NOT say:
Anything outside these boundaries must be acceptable to Big Oilco.

Here, “acceptable to” means reasonable or allowed, which is the opposite of what you really want. We are talking about acceptance, which means an express agreement about what is acceptable. What we really want is to be “able to accept” or approve the thing that is outside our defined boundaries.

This idea could be expressed:
Anything outside these boundaries must be acceptable by Big Oilco.

But even then, it’s not very clear. Here’s a better way:
Anything outside these boundaries must be approved by Big Oilco before it is accepted.

Here’s another shorter way:
Anything outside these boundaries must be accepted by Big Oilco first.

Those last two example sentences are acceptable.

————————————–
Profound Quote of the Day:
“Start with what is right rather than what is acceptable.”
– Franz Kafka, Austrian novelist, 1883-1924

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