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    #1

    Deviate From Plan/Text

    I have a question about the usage of the verb "deviate". According to dictionaries, "deviate" means:


    "to do something different from what is usual or expected"


    Suppose some "original plan" includes a participant giving a speech according to a "prepared text":


    1. "He deviated from the original plan."
    2. "He deviated from the prepared text."


    It seems that the two "deviated"s have very different meanings. In sentence 1, "deviated" could mean either giving a speech different from the prepared text, or not giving speech at all. In sentence 2, "deviated" could only mean just giving a speech different from the prepared text. What do native speakers think?

  1. Raymott's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    That's right. And in "He deviated from the main road" it means something else. As usual, words derive some of their meaning from the context.

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    #3

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    Is there a dictionary definition that fits the usage in my example sentences better than the "to do something different from what is usual or expected" definition?

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    #4

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    Yes, there are several. Look them up.

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    #5

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    So, the two sentences are potentially poorly written, because of the wide variety of possible meanings of "deviate"?

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    #6

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    There are better ways to word the sentences to avoid ambiguity and different interpretations, one of the criteria for good writing.

    Instead of saying that he deviated, why not say what he did to have deviated from his plans, etc.?
    I am not a teacher.

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    #7

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    Quote Originally Posted by learningspirit View Post
    So, the two sentences are potentially poorly written, because of the wide variety of possible meanings of "deviate"?
    I don't consider them poorly written. There are potentially multiple meanings for 'so', 'sentences', 'poorly', 'wide', and 'variety', but that doesn't mean that your sentence is poorly written, because we know the context of your text, and we can see how the words fit together.

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    #8

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    People sometimes write ambiguously on purpose to avoid being held for what they say.

    'Deviate' is a common word used in contracts.
    I am not a teacher.

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    #9

    Re: Deviate From Plan/Text

    Quote Originally Posted by learningspirit View Post
    So, the two sentences are potentially poorly written, because of the wide variety of possible meanings of "deviate"?
    We use words that have many meanings all the time- generally the context makes which meaning is intended clear. Using a word with many meanings is not automatically poor writing.

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