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At work we use the headline "Better Prepare for a career in xyz" to mean something to the effect of "Help yourself better prepare for a career in xyz". I feel that the statement is way harsh and comes across as "better prepare for a career in xyz ... or else".

Can someone give me a nerdy sounding reason why this is wrong?

Or ... am I wrong for thinking it is wrong.

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closed as too localized by FumbleFingers, Daniel, simchona, kiamlaluno, Mitch Jan 30 '12 at 3:01

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Ask them if they were in the hospital, would they want a card that says "Better Get Soon!" – JeffSahol Jan 27 '12 at 19:10
I think you're just mistakenly conflating this usage with the perhaps more familiar injunction "You had better [do such-and-such]", which does indeed imply "or else dire consequences will ensue". In this usage, "better" simply means "more effectively". (I hope this explanation isn't too "nerdy"! :) – FumbleFingers Jan 27 '12 at 19:14
...whatever - it's "general reference". Or peeving. – FumbleFingers Jan 27 '12 at 19:15
I think "conflating" hits the right "nerdy" note there. Basically. – JeffSahol Jan 27 '12 at 19:15
I guess I've been listening to a lot of ice cube which is why I'm confused. Thanks all! – user17495 Jan 27 '12 at 19:18
up vote 1 down vote accepted

Better prepare for a career in xyz. It's not the most elegant, but it's also not wrong.

Better is being used as an adverb to modify the subjunctive verb prepare. The subjunctive mood is used to express anything hypothetical or anticipated: wish, possibility, opinion. It often appears in company slogans: they suggest x will happen if you use their product or service. Another example of a slogan that uses a subjunctive verb with the adverb better is WalMart's: Save Money, Live Better. Often the subjunctive mood is confused with the imperative mood (i.e. a command), possibly because they share a terseness, or sometimes a lack of subject, and both express something that has yet to happen. It's likely that you feel the example sentence is "wrong" because you are simply reading it in the imperative mood. Adding a few more words to our example may help demonstrate the difference:

  • Subjunctive: (Follow these tips to) better prepare for a career in xyz.
  • Imperative: (You should) better prepare for a career in xyz (or else).

My opinion is that confusing-yet-grammatically-sound sentences represent failure to communicate an idea and should be avoided.

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