Center On or Center Around?

by Craig Shrives

Center On or Center Around?

The term "center around" is often frowned upon for being illogical. However, through common usage, it has become an accepted idiom. Nevertheless, in formal writing, it is best to play it safe and use "center on."

More about "Center On" and "Center Around"

The term "center around" is illogical because the two words conflict with each other. (It is an oxymoron.) However, through common usage, "center around" has become an idiom meaning "to make something a point of focus." It has probably developed from people taking elements from the terms "revolve around" and "center on," both of which are logically sound themselves.
center on or center around?
Center around has been in common usage since the mid-19th century.

More about "Center On" and "Center Around"

In formal writing, it is best to avoid the term "center around" and use an alternative such as "center on" or "focus on."

  • What I learned growing up on the farm was a way of life that was centered on hard work, on faith, and on thrift. Those values have stuck with me my whole life. correct tick (American politician Rick Perry)
  • SpongeBob SquarePants is a great show, and it centers on a character that is courageously nice and who has a passion for chasing jellyfish. correct tick (Author Vince Gilligan)

Avoid "Center Around" in Formal Writing

Use "center on," "revolve around," or "focus on" in formal writing to avoid looking sloppy.

"Centred" or "Centered"?

Here are the various spellings under UK and US conventions. Writers in Australia usually adopt UK spellings while Canadians usually adopt US spellings.
UK ConventionUS Convention

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