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Refer vs. recommend

Posted by Maria Murnane | July 10, 2012

I watched a movie the other night in which a revered contagious disease specialist facing a lethal epidemic delivered a line to a nervous patient that made my own skin crawl. It was something along the lines of: “That’s not my area of expertise, but I’ll refer a doctor.”

Ugh. Apparently no one is immune to bad grammar, not even the upper echelon of Hollywood scriptwriters.

Refer and recommend have different meanings:

Refer is to direct to a source for help or information. You refer a person to something, and this action constitutes a referral.

Recommend is to endorse. You recommend something to a person, and this action constitutes a recommendation.

Here are some examples of correct usage:

The doctor referred his patient to a specialist.

  • The doctor recommended a specialist to his patient.
  • My doctor gave me a referral to see a specialist.
  • My doctor’s recommendation to see that specialist saved my life.
  • Can anyone refer me to a good realtor in Los Angeles?
  • Can anyone recommend a good realtor in Los Angeles?
  • My yoga teacher referred my mom to an amazing acupuncturist.
  • My yoga teacher recommended an amazing acupuncturist to my mom.

refer vs. recommendPeople often get these usages mixed up, which is understandable, but if you want to be taken seriously as a writer, it’s important to know the difference. After all, you want people to recommend your work to their friends, just as you want your friends to refer you to great ways to promote your work.

-Maria

This blog post originally appeared on CreateSpace.com. Reprinted with permission. © 2012 CreateSpace, a DBA of On-Demand Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved.

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