According to / In accordance with

popckorn

Senior Member
Spanish - Mexican
Hi, in my industry it is utterly common to refer to compliance with reference documentation and guidelines when describing a process. Hence these kind of assertions are the rule:

Batch count must be reconciled at the end of the reprocessing.
Label discrepancies will require an investigation according to TAM-001.

Our local originators (non-native speakers) are adamant on/in using: "according to" in this context. Nonetheless I am 99% sure it should read:

Batch count must be reconciled at the end of the reprocessing.
Label discrepancies will require an investigation in accordance with TAM-001.


What do you natives think? Which one is the best suited expression and due to what "rule" or reason?. Thank you in advance.
 
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  • Ceremoniar

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Most English speakers would understand either version, but I agree that in accordance with is proper in this context, because TAM-001 is a rule or guideline that has been issued authoritatively, and subordinates are obligated to comply. According to would work if someone were providing an opinion, but not something legislative or authoritative, which requires in accordance with.
     

    popckorn

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Mexican
    Yes, that was my impression.
    I keep these two examples to discern, as a rule:

    "According to Jim, kids should have icecream not after 7pm" -> He has an opinion, it is a fuzzy not compliance demaning one.
    vs
    "In accordance with the Federal Law I cannot woo underage girls" -> This is a definitive (authoritative) ORDER with consecuences, seeking compliance.

    But I am not 100% sure these two modes behave this way all the time. Is this always the case with "in accordance with" and "according to"?
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    My sense is that, in a document concerned with compliance, the two are equivalent (one of the dictionary definitions quotes the other) - such a document will not contain the casual "according to the New York times" attributive use of "according to". In the outside world, as you note, accordance means complete agreement/compliance and is usually distinct from the more common "rumour" use of "according to Fred". Since in an environment where compliance is required, it is utterly to use consistent language - in fact there is probably a master document in the system (there should be for a GMP documenttion system, for example) which defines terms and sets style requirements. That is where it should say "use the term in accordance with and do not use according to when referring to compliance with another document" or some such wording.

    Added: In a real world setting I think you would use according to rather than in accordance with in, say, a cookbook. "Make a sponge cake according to the recipe on page 72. While it is baking, prepare the filling as decribed on page 88." In such a sentence, "in accordance with" would sound too legalese! This example might even say "using the recipe..." - either way the meaning will be sufficiently clear for the baker:D
     
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    popckorn

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Mexican
    Brilliant observation, Julian. In my search for idiomatic wording I lost sight of context in this case. You are right, the circumstances give no room to ambiguities in that sense. Regardless I wanted to use the most precise expresion possible.

    Regarding the master style document, there is still none, but I have been compiling expresions and usage guidelines in my own drafts, aiming towards the implementation of such a document in the near future, hence my scrupulousness with this issue.

    Funny how many words/expressions are linked to eachother in the dictionaries, but on common usage they denote differet meanings.

    Have a great week fellow foristas!.
     

    Ceremoniar

    Senior Member
    USA
    American English
    Added: In a real world setting I think you would use according to rather than in accordance with in, say, a cookbook. "Make a sponge cake according to the recipe on page 72. While it is baking, prepare the filling as decribed on page 88." In such a sentence, "in accordance with" would sound too legalese! This example might even say "using the recipe..." - either way the meaning will be sufficiently clear for the baker:D
    But that was exactly my point. A cookbook is a set of recommended recipes by a (presumably) expert chef. They are non-binding; one may follow the recipe exactly, or not, according to one's preferences. But a company policy, or other edict with which one is expected to comply, is something different. That is why Sgt. Joe Friday on the old Dragnet TV series would say, "In accordance with the California penal code..." then proceed to provide the statute number.
     

    popckorn

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Mexican
    You keep making a point there guys!

    Good clarification. So, "in accordance with" is too "legalese", in my setting it is too "compliance enforcer". But in a cookbook we are on the otherside, we want to create a more "informal" "everyday feeling" so we stick to "according to".

    I wonder what other examples of the "according to" expectrum are. And what would be examples of gray areas.
     

    Andygc

    Senior Member
    British English
    I have to disagree a little with JulianStuart. I don't think that "according to" means the same as "in accordance with". "According to" just tells you what TAM-001 says, it creates no obligation. Mind you, I wouldn't use "will require" in an order, I'd use "must be investigated".
     

    popckorn

    Senior Member
    Spanish - Mexican
    Thank you Andy. In Spanish the equivalent of "will require" is a common idiom before stating an imperative. I guess the originator translated it literally. I saw no problem with it, probably due to being acustomed to it. Still I don't think it is as bad as using "should" instead of "shall".
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Local wisdom (WRF Dictionary):
    according /əˈkɔːdɪŋ/ adj
    • (followed by to) in proportion; in relation
    • (followed by to) on the report (of); as stated (by)
    • (followed by to) in conformity (with); in accordance (with)
    • (followed by as) depending (on whether)

    However, because there exist other possible interpretations of the sense of "according to", I suggested, for consistency and removal of any ambiguity,
    " a master document ... which defines terms and sets style requirements. That is where it should say "use the term in accordance with and do not use according to when referring to compliance with another document" or some such wording.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    The third definition is more concise than accurate.

    To me, the difference is that “according to” suggests subjectivity, whereas “In accordance with” suggests objectivity.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    Collins isn't the only dictionary to give the conformance sense - MW is also a little less concise and has examples to boot. As I said, I agree accordance is the preferred word for a document where strict protocol must be followed, mainly because it brooks no ambiguity. I still don't think defintion 2 below (or the Collins above) is to be interpreted as "subjective" - rules and directions are written to be interpreted objectively! Definition number 1 has that sense (according to someone's subjective opinion).

    according to preposition

    1 : as stated, reported, or recorded by (someone or something)
    ▪ According to a recent survey, most Americans drive to work. [=a recent survey says that most Americans drive to work] ▪ According to rumors I've heard, he was fired for stealing from the company.

    2 : as directed or required by (rules, directions, etc.)
    ▪ She always did everything according to the rules. ▪ I cooked the rice according to the directions on the box. ▪ Everything went according to plan. [=everything went as it had been planned]

    3 : in a way that is based on (something)
    ▪ He arranged the books on the shelf according to [=by] their size. ▪ He was paid according to how quickly he worked.
    Edit: The original post has wording that comes from the world of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP - see this wiki for an introduction). The ngrams for "according to GMP" and "in accordance with GMP" do not show a significant preference - given that the world of GMP is about following protocols and directions as general practices, the interpretation as definition 2 is the one people in the field will assume is meant, given the context.
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    I still don't think definition 2 below (or the Collins above) is to be interpreted as "subjective".
    It is the brevity of the definition that bothers me. "According to" is used before the detail has been examined; this is the subjective aspect. "In accordance with" is used after thorough examination. Only at this point may the actual rules be followed -> "as a result of careful examination and in agreement with (i) the findings or (ii) words as laid out..."

    Clerk: "According to the police, he's guilty of theft."
    Lawyer: "According to their interpretation of the Theft Act?" (Here, it appears that "according to" has the meaning of "in accordance with" but as neither the police, clerk nor the lawyer know all the evidence, all that the lawyer is saying is that the case needs examination.)
    [The trial takes place and the accused is found guilty.]
    Clerk: "What happened to the thief?"
    Lawyer: "Sentenced to 18 months in accordance with Judges' Guidelines."

    The OED is helpful
    5. As a compound preposition. according to: as stated or formulated by.
    2b. in accordance with (also to): in agreement or harmony with; in conformity to; according to.
    Although "in accordance with" may substitute for "according to" It doesn't seem to work the other way around.

    I was also surprised by the difference in the definitions.

    She always did everything according to the rules. ▪ I cooked the rice according to the directions on the box. ▪ Everything went according to plan. [=everything went as it had been planned]

    I think the above example justifies (if justification were needed) your advice against "according to" as it is informal.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It is the brevity of the definition that bothers me. "According to" is used before the detail has been examined; this is the subjective aspect1. "In accordance with" is used after thorough examination. Only at this point may the actual rules be followed -> "as a result of careful examination and in agreement with (i) the findings or (ii) words as laid out..."

    Clerk: "According to1 the police, he's guilty of theft."
    Lawyer: "According to their interpretation1 of the Theft Act?" (Here, it appears that "according to" has the meaning of "in accordance with" but as neither the police, clerk nor the lawyer know all the evidence, all that the lawyer is saying is that the case needs examination.)
    I have marked all the instances 1 where I believe the definition is #1 of the 3 in my post. This is the subjective use of the word. (Their interpetation seems to mean their subjective interpretation, to me).

    You say: "According to" is used before the detail has been examined. Where does this sense come from? Perhaps this is from usage established (and defined) for acceptable language in the narrower sphere of legal proceedings (in the UK?)? It is a new conept for me if that is the case - and the dictionaries too, it would seem:) - but seem not to carry those restrictions outside that sphere.

    I played the game according to the rules. I cooked it according to the directions. In this usage, the rules are already in place (or cooking instruction etc.) so I just followed them - the details do not need to be "examined". Here, it is equivalent to "in accordance with" and is not "procedural" nor is it particularly "informal" (except perhaps in your sphere where "detail"is relevant).

    He was hanged in accordance with the law. In this case, according to would indeed sound strange although that may be due to familiarity with such formal situations.

    I have not coughed up the $300 needed for online OED access, but my old Chambers has a brief definition of according to: In accordance with; as asserted by. (as senses 2 and 1, respectively, of my 3 above)

    I would not be surprised to find we are in the middle of a transition* (possibly at different stages in AmE and BrE) where the segregations of these meanings to one or other expression, such that, for some, the "compliance with rules, directions" aspect is no longer an entry under "according to". For me, MW and Collins, that time has not yet arrived :D We are agreed, of course, that popckorn needs "in accordance with" to avoid any potential ambiguity.

    *Rather like media is the plural only of communication/presentation methods and mediums is the plural of people who claim paranormal abilities.
     
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