Don’t contribute

Well, I’m perfectly happy for you to have your say in this blog. What I mean is don’t overuse the word “contribute” in English. Or its derivatives such as “contribution”.

It’s a common, everyday word in Dutch: bijdragen. My estimate is that nearest single equivalent in English, contribute, is around three to five times less common. So maybe 80% of the time or more, you’re better off looking to use other terms such as:

  • help (our most usual translation of the word)
  • assist
  • add to

It’s a perfectly good English word, of course, particularly in the sense of making a financial contribution. The problem is that everyone uses it unthinkingly as the default transation of bijdragen, een bijdrage maken aan and so forth. Every damn time. And it grates.

Prevalence: very high. Over half the documents edited used the word where a native speaker wouldn’t.
Frequency: very common. Usually multiple times in a document. Often several times on the same page.
Native: not applicable. Native speakers use the word, sure. It’s a question of not over-using it.

Published by Mike Wilkinson

Twenty years of translating and editing Dutch into English, as well as writing and publishing in English.

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