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In a paper I read, the authors selected various images by color, and I wondered if what they did wouldn’t be better expressed by according to color. But the longer I thought about it, the less sure I was. Maybe someone here can help my muddled brain.

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Since by has a sense "according to", the meaning is the same.

The second is longer, and more cumbersome. That's not a difference in meaning, but it is a practical reason to favour the first.

Now, if a given use of by in this sense was open to misinterpretation to any of the other senses of by, that would be a reason to favour the latter. But since that seems unlikely, I'd go for the first.

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Thanks - it helps to sound out these things at times! – always curious Feb 4 '13 at 12:32
Select or sort by colour... Sounds fine to me – mplungjan Feb 4 '13 at 12:43
@alwayscurious the only problem being that sometimes after doing a lot of sounding out, it can get to the point where nothing sounds normal! – Jon Hanna Feb 4 '13 at 17:09
@Jon Hanna: Indeed! That's why I find this site so useful... Thank you, also for your many other comments here. – always curious Feb 6 '13 at 6:40

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