Center On or Center Around?

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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."

Examples:
  • 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. (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. (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
centrecenter
centrescenters
centredcentered
centringcentering
Interactive Exercise
Here are three randomly selected questions from a larger exercise, which can be edited, printed to create an exercise worksheet, or sent via email to friends or students.

See Also

adverse or averse? affect or effect? appraise or apprise? avenge or revenge? bare or bear? complement or compliment? dependant or dependent? discreet or discrete? disinterested or uninterested? e.g. or i.e.? envy or jealousy? imply or infer? its or it's? material or materiel? poisonous or venomous? practice or practise? principal or principle? cannot or can not? who's or whose? What are idioms? List of easily confused words