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I wrote a sentence as follows:

Being able to do X distinguishes me between a programmer who works with code and a system engineer who is capable of designing a revolutionary system like Google and Facebook.

What I meant by the above sentence is "X makes a system engineer who is better than a programmer who does coding for a living".

Does my sentence convey the intended meaning? Is this a correct use of the word "distinguish"? Feel free to suggest any other alternatives.

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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

OP probably shouldn't use the word distinguish at all in this context. It's usually only used in constructions distinguishing A from B, or distinguishing A from "everything/everybody else". It doesn't really work with three different identities (me, programmer, and engineer here).

I would suggest...

Being able to do X identifies me as a systems engineer capable of designing a revolutionary system like Google or Facebook, not just a programmer who works with code.

Note that my suggestion is only concerned with grammaticality and fluency. I wouldn't advise any single individual to go about claiming they could design the equivalent of Google or Facebook. It's no slur on the technical skills of Sergey Brin, Larry Page, Mark Zuckerberg, et al, to say that these are now vastly complex systems, far beyond the ability of any single person to implement.

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I would be inclined to break it into two sentences:

Being capable of doing X distinguishes me from a programmer who works solely with code. This makes me a system engineer, capable of designing a revolutionary system such as Google or Facebook.

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Thanks a lot, but I can only pick one answer... –  Wei Shi Dec 10 '11 at 19:35
    
You can unpick the other answer though if you prefer this one. –  Pureferret Dec 10 '11 at 23:32
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The sentence is badly worded. It would more properly be stated:

Being able to do X distinguishes me, as a programmer who writes code, from a system engineer who is capable of designing a revolutionary system like Google or Facebook.

It is still a convoluted sentence that could be stated more clearly. It also overstates the (enormous) capabilities of the engineer, which negates your message ..

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"Being able to do X distinguishes me from a programmer who merely works with code, unlike a systems engineer who is capable of designing a revolutionary system like Google and Facebook." -That is what the OP means to say, I guess.

It may be still better if you say unlike a true systems engineer ...

Also, note that it's systems engineer with an added s.

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