Q From David Holland: I am uneasy about the word orientated as in business-orientated. I feel the word should be oriented. Am I right, wrong, pedantic, or what?
A We have a minor oddity here, in that both orient and orientate come from the same French verb, orienter, but were introduced at different times, the shorter one in the eighteenth century and the longer in the middle of the nineteenth. There’s been a quiet war going on between the two of them ever since. I tend to use oriented and orientated pretty indiscriminately myself, choosing the shorter one when it seems to fit the flow of the sentence. Robert Burchfield, in the Third Edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage, says “one can have no fundamental quarrel with anyone who decides to use the longer of the two words”. But all this is a British view, since here orientated is common; in the US it is less so and considered much less a part of the standard language. So, as always, it’s as much a case of who you are writing for and where you are doing so.