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misty123's avatar

English question- Correct usage of words.

Asked by misty123 (324 points ) September 12th, 2012

I have often come across many people who use the word reassign back. Is it necessary to have the word back after reassign. The word itself has the word re which means again.

EG: I have reassigned the defect to you.

vs

I have reassigned the defect back to you.

What if it is used like “Re-assigned vs Reassigned”?

Many people use revert back or reply back instead reply and revert and I think it is totally wrong.

Please advise.

Thanks.

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22 Answers

morphail's avatar

What is right and wrong always depends on the context. If people who communicate with you use it, then it’s probably safe to use it when you communicate with them.

sabine's avatar

I suppose technically it is wrong to say ‘reply back’ etc
But that’s like anything, why do some people say, ‘THEY DONE a test…’ when it should be ‘they did’ etc?
What is right and wrong in language is variable, because no two people will EVER have the exact same grammar.
What you have to remember is, language has never been stagnant and never will for that matter
Perhaps somewhere along the way, someone has used ‘revert back’ or something to help them remember it’s meaning and then it caught on (known as the wave effect)

zenvelo's avatar

“Reassign back” is not the same as “reassign”. If A gives a task to B, B can reassign it back to A, or reassign it to C.

“Revert back” and “reply back” may sound redundant, but in some way they are more precise.

For instance: “We just got this question from a client; will you figure it out and reply back to me so I can review before it goes out?”

And revert back carries the connotation of reverting back one specific step, not reverting in general.

wundayatta's avatar

In most cases, I think you’d use “reassign” without “back.” However in your example, it really makes no sense with “reassign” alone. What does it mean to reassign a defect? A defect is a personal thing in most cases. It can’t be assigned or reassigned. It is a part of you.

So in that case, you might add “back” because it hints that you are talking about a defect that belongs to something you held temporarily in your custody, like a part you were making for a car or something like that. Both sentences still sound awkward given a lack of context. But in that case, I can see using “back” to indicate that the defect is a movable thing, not something that is endemic to you.

But I would prefer another locution altogether. Something that gives more of a clue as to what is going on.

marinelife's avatar

@misty123 You are correct. None of those words needs nor should they have back after them. It is poor writing to do so.

CWOTUS's avatar

Are you Indian?

I ask because until I started working with Indian colleagues and customers I had never heard of the word “revert” being used to mean “reply”, but I find that this usage and meaning is nearly universal in Indian business communications. (To our Western ears, “revert” usually means “to set back to a prior stage”. That is, to sort of “turn back the clock” or defer to an earlier machine or process setting. We never use the word “revert” to mean “reply” or “respond”. Not.Ever.)

So in the context of Indian usage of our common language, “reassign back” seems (to me) to be a way to say what Westerners mean by “revert”. E.g., You have attempted to assign something to another worker. He attempts to reassign it someone else, who then “reassigns it back” to you, the original source. In that case, where the reassignment is not only “passing on” but “passing back”, I can understand the usage you have questioned. But only in that case.

gailcalled's avatar

As an aside; I do not understand what “defect” means in your examples.

And yes, you should skip the “back.” it is redundant.

gambitking's avatar

“Reassign back” is technically correct if the person was once assigned the thing that is being reassigned to them. It’s not necessary but it’s structurally correct and adds a descriptor that indicates the person was originally or previously assigned that same thing.

Reply back and Revert back are somewhat redundant, and the word ‘back’ in those contexts is really unnecessary. Because of the redundancy, and because ‘back’ isn’t really needed with those words (Reply/Revert), I’d say they are at best stylistically and at worst technically incorrect.

After all, as our good friend Mark Twain said – “Eschew Surplusage”

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
whitenoise's avatar

@cwotus to revert in the meaning of to reply is common practice in international business communications. It’s usage is definitely not confined to people with an Indian background.

To reassign back is perfectly correct English to distinguish from to reassign to someone else.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
CWOTUS's avatar

If you say so, @whitenoise. But I’ve done business for many years with people from many countries in Europe and subsequently with those from several Asian countries other than India. I had never seen the “revert” usage we’re describing. My first month working with Indians (several years ago) and ever since, I see it almost daily.

misty123's avatar

@CWOTUS : Your guess is correct. I don’t use revert back, but use revert in such cases. But, I observed most of the people from HR (Human resource) department use it. A good dictionary explains the meaning of revert.

I asked this question just after I got off the call with client. The client lives in the UK and who is a native English speaker.

I said: I have reassigned the defect to you.
He replied: I have fixed the defect and reassigned it back to you.

I checked the meaning of reply here. I know it differs a lot from reply back.

My assumption for reassign is same, as “re” already conveys the idea of getting back to someone.

I would simply use “I have assigned the defect back to you”.

Thanks.

Jeruba's avatar

@gailcalled, that use of “defect” sounds like the language of a bug tracker, such as might be used by software QA engineers.

gailcalled's avatar

@Jeruba: I read that, initially, as bug tractor, which increased the mystery.

CWOTUS's avatar

@whitenoise I’m not going to turn this into an argument. I’m very much aware of that definition of the word. But the actual usage, in context, and time after time, is used to mean “respond”.

“Thank you for your email. I will revert tomorrow.”

“I asked you about the drawings for this system last week, and so far I have not received them. Please revert soonest.”

etc.

citizenearth's avatar

“reassigned” will do. No need to put the hyphen in between. It is not correct grammar to use ‘back’ after the word ‘reply’ or ‘revert’ because it is redundant.

morphail's avatar

“Redundant” does not mean “incorrect”. After all redundancy is a normal part of language.

CWOTUS's avatar

I think what you meant to say, @morphail, is that redundancy is a normal and regular part of language.

citizenearth's avatar

@ morphail: Normal for colloquial use maybe, but not in formal/official use.

morphail's avatar

@citizenearth If people use it in formal or official use, then it’s probably ok to use it formal or official use.

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