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Advert vs. avert

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  • Advert is (1) a verb meaning refer or call attention (usually followed by to), and (2) an abbreviation of advertisement. The first is used almost exclusively in legal contexts, and the second is used mainly in British English. Avert is a verb meaning (1) to turn away, and (2) to ward off. The two are often confused, especially in American English.

    Examples

    The verb advert is most often used in legal writing, and it’s usually followed by to—for example:

    At a sentencing hearing held on October 14, 2009, counsel for the government adverted to the two matters that were “in reasonable dispute.” [Leagle]

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    The noun advert is common in British English, less common in Canadian and Australian English, and rare in American English. For instance, these are British publications:

    The stunning actress parades around in Armani’s latest lingerie line in a new advert. [The Sun]

    In the advert for the game, characters are seen putting the Nintendo Wii controllers into the back of their trousers and then spanking each other. [Telegraph]

    And these writers use avert well:

    Ministers are urging fire authorities to avert redundancies by introducing more flexible work patterns, sharing senior staff and improving procurement methods. [Independent]

    If the woman doesn’t want to watch the sonogram, she can avert her eyes, he says. [Dallas Morning News]

    The University of Winnipeg and the U of W Faculty Association have agreed to a media blackout as they try to avert the first strike by professors in university history. [Winnipeg Free Press]

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    Comments

    1. Here in Britain we think “advert” is still quite a long word, and often shorten it further to “ad”.

      For instance, “classified advertisements” (births, marriages, for-sales, lonely hearts, etc) would be shortened to “classified ads” rather than “classified adverts”. (Though “classifieds” is common, too.) “Short ads” is another name for the same thing, and here the monosyllable is just about universal.

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