Our second entry in the series on misuse of English in European Union documents take a look at a word that, in Germany, almost all English students and teachers love to hate: CONTROL.
How often have we read (or even written!) sentences that sound like this:
„I controlled your report, and I found a few mistakes.“
„After controlling the meeting minutes, I send them to participants.“
And even: „She was controlled in the tram today, and didn’t have a ticket.“
To non-German speakers, these sentences sound very, very authoritarian. That’s because control is something that comes from power. If you control someone, you force (zwingen!) them to do something!
With that in mind, here’s Jeremy Gardner’s entry on the word „control“ :
Explanation: To control does not usually mean to audit, check or verify and a control is not normally a check or an inspection.
Its most common meaning is “to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; to direct”. Thus, if we say that “the [European] Commission controlled project X in the Member States”, we do not mean that the Commission audited it, but that the Commission ran it. In combination with a few other terms contained in this list, this misuse can end up sounding quite sinister (e.g. “the Commission’s contract agents were on a mission in the United Kingdom to control execution under Axis II’).
Used as a noun, we do not carry out or perform controls. Controls are more likely to be systems that are in place (passport controls, for example). Hence, we can say that the Court checked to see if the key controls were in place, but not that it carried out controls.
Furthermore, when talking about systems, the best term will often be safeguard. For example, „a number of safeguards are built into the system to ensure that funds are spent correctly“.
Examples: „Administrative checks must be undertaken on all applications for support and payment claims, and cover all elements that are possible and appropriate to control by administrative means.“
„Apart from the annual review of the reference amount, customs authorities are not obliged to carry out controls after authorization.“
Alternatives: Audit, check, verify, inspect/inspection, safeguard.
Excercises: fill in the blank with the correct word: inspect, look, check, verify
Did you ________ if the warning light is on?
I always ________ the document for mistakes.
After ________ the package for damage, she opened it.
- Please ________ whether or not you have activated your account.