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Why Not Use “Scheme” as a Synonym for “Plan” or “Project”?

As I have written before, many of my posts originated as part of a seminar I put together to help students choose which word to use in any situation. Today, I scrolled down and came across scheme in the category “Confusing Words.” I wrote a note: “Do not use as a synonym for a plan or a project.”

I read my note again — and couldn’t remember why I had written it. I thought maybe I wanted to tell future seminar attendees that they shouldn’t use scheme as a verb when plan or project works better.

So, seeking the answer, I consulted my dictionary. Under plan was a note detailing the differences between scheme, plan, project, design and plot.

All mean a method devised for making or doing something or achieving an end. But each one implies something different.

Scheme stresses calculating with an end goal that often is motivated by self-interest.

Plan always implies you’re using your mind to formulate, which is why people say “formulate a plan.”

Project stresses imaginative scope and vision.

Design suggests a particular pattern or some degree of order you’ve achieved (e.g., “intelligent design”).

Plot implies laying out clearly distinguished sections, such as the acts of a play.

These distinctions did not help me remember why I wrote that note. But at least now I know why not use scheme as a synonym for plan or project: They have slightly different meanings.

Until next time! Use the right words!


June 10, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , ,

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