Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Opt out is not a transitive verb

Heard on NPR’s All Things Considered, in a story about parents opposed to state assessment-tests: “She opted her third-grade son out of the tests.”

Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern American Usage (2009) glosses opt out of:

Opt out (of), meaning “to choose not to participate [in],” is a bit of legalese that has entrenched itself in the public consciousness through class-action lawsuits, contracts, and governmental regulations.
What GMAU didn’t need to point out is that opt out is an intransitive verb. It takes no object. You can opt out, but you cannot opt someone out. NPR’s reporter could have phrased the sentence in other ways: She chose to have her third-grade son not take the tests. She opted out of having her third-grade son take the tests. She refused permission for her third-grade son take the tests. She would not give permission for her third-grade son to take the tests. I like the last one best.

Some quick Google searching suggests that a transitive opt out is playing a bit part in discussions of testing.

[NPR, your transcript needs a hyphen for third-grade. I’ve added one here.]

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