The Phrase That Is Eluding You Is ‘Alluding To’

“Today we all received an email eluding to and enforcing our corporate ’email deletion policy’,” a friend wrote recently on Facebook. Email deletion policies suck, but so does using ‘eluding to’ when you actually mean ‘alluding to’.

Archery picture from Shutterstock

This is yet another example of someone hearing a word, assuming a particular spelling and not realising it’s an entirely different word. We’ve covered several similar examples previously in Mind Your Language, including ‘cue’ versus ‘queue’, ‘averse’ versus ‘adverse’ and how an ‘object lesson’ is not an ‘abject lesson’.

The Macquarie Dictionary defines ‘allude’ as “to make an allusion to, refer casually or indirectly to”. ‘Elude’ means “to avoid or escape by dexterity or artifice”. Since elude is a transitive verb, you can’t use ‘to’ after it.

It’s easy to understand how the mistake was made, and if I was to offer corrections every time I saw an error on Facebook, I would never get anything else done. But this kind of error has no place in a news story or other professional context. Accuracy matters.

Lifehacker’s Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.

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