Maybe I'm just getting grumpier with age, but these days I tend to mentally edit a lot of what I read in newspapers, magazines and online. One of my main causes to get out the mental red pencil is the use of the word "chance
" when the writer was really describing an "opportunity
What's the difference?
I was taught back in communication school there's quite a lot of difference between the words, although both may mean similar things.
Let's a have a look at the meanings of both.
Dictionary.com offers the following meanings, among others, for chance
1. the absence of any cause of events that can be predicted, understood, or controlled: often personified or treated as a positive agency: Chance governs all.
2. luck or fortune: a game of chance.
3. a possibility or probability of anything happening: a fifty-percent chance of success.
4. an opportune or favorable time; opportunity: Now is your chance.
And it says this about opportunity
–noun, plural -ties.
1. an appropriate or favorable time or occasion: Their meeting afforded an opportunity to exchange views.
2. a situation or condition favorable for attainment of a goal.
3. a good position, chance, or prospect, as for advancement or success.
You can see areas where both words overlap (ie meaning 4 of chance
is similar but slightly different to meaning 1 of opportunity
), but let's look at using them in context.
One of my clients is Ryde Business Forum
, and I organise many events for this association. In the invitations I write, I offer members and guests the opportunity
to hear a keynote speaker, not the chance
. Chance suggests a gamble in what the visitors might get out of the occasion - it could be good or it could be rubbish; opportunity suggests they're going to hear something to their advantage.
If I'm organising a charity auction, I advertise that bidders have the opportunity
to win the object of their desire - this isn't a game of chance, they have to put the highest bid in to be successful. If I'm organising a charity raffle, then ticket buyers are told they have a chance
of winning as they don't, unlike an auction, have any say over the outcome.
If you are writing a media release, copy for your website, an invitation to an event or other promotional material, think carefully before using chance
to make sure you're using the correct word for the situation. It does make a difference to the way your readers will perceive you and your chosen topic. If you're confused about which word to use, drop me a line on the contact form you'll find on this website!