Make Your Editor Cry: Addicting or Addictive?

Make Your Editor Cry:  Addicting or Addictive?

Do you find beer nuts addicting or addictive?

Technically, they are neither, though in common parlance, they could be either.

Confused yet?

Addiction is a compulsive, chronic, physiological or psychological need for a habit-forming substance, behavior, or activity. Now, don’t get me wrong beer nuts are pretty good, but technically they are neither addictive nor addicting because eating beer nuts will never lead to an actual addiction to beer nuts.

Addictive means causing or tending to cause addiction. Guess what. The present-participle adjective addicting is synonymous with addictive. The words mean nearly exactly the same thing.

There’s a trend to use the word addicting in reference to nonaddictive things that engender repeated indulgence (e.g., beer nuts, a great television show, or a fun video game), but there’s no reason the word addictive couldn’t work just as well.

While some people may scowl at you for using it, addicting is a perfectly legitimate word, just less common than addictive. Those same scowlers will probably carefully articulate addictive in favor of addicting but use it to describe nonaddictive things–like beer nuts. So, you know, you can smirk right back if you feel so inclined.

If you want to use one or the other in the dialogue, feel free. While both are correct, I would recommend using addictive in favor of addicting in the narrative text since, for whatever reason, it’s less controversial. And, in the narrative at least, I would recommend only ever using either word to describe things that actually are likely to lead to real addiction: like cigarettes or gambling–not beer nuts.

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