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What is the proper usage of the phrase “due diligence”?

There is another question that has been asked similar to mine but I didn't find any of the answers had completely answered my question. I have a friend who said, "I think we have used enough due diligence to prepare for this test," and it didn't quite seem right.

After some brief research on the proper definition of "diligence" and the meaning of the term/phrase "due diligence", I'm still convinced that she is incorrect in her usage. I am curious as to what the community has to say about her response to me. Keep in mind that she's a very arrogant individual who was trying to appear more intelligent than she very well may be.

If this is the incorrect usage then what, specifically, is faulty about her sentence structure? I'm trying to build up an arsenal here so that I am 100% correct once I correct her.

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'Due' in 'due diligence' implies 'enough', therefore this is redundant. Furthermore, 'due diligence' is a defined process which is either exercised or not exercised -- there can be no degree of due diligence. –  Kris May 15 '12 at 18:33
Assure us that you will utilize the knowledge acquired at ELU for the ultimate good of humanity, not excluding your friend(s). –  Kris May 15 '12 at 18:37
Of course. I'm a twenty-something grad student who's just trying to learn at least one new thing a day. –  LL_Train May 15 '12 at 18:39
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marked as duplicate by FumbleFingers, Matt Эллен, Mark Beadles, Mahnax, MετάEd Aug 31 '12 at 5:26

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2 Answers

"Due diligence" originally meant "necessary diligence" or perhaps "expected diligence", and "due" expressed that a certain amount was required to satisfy a legal process: the amount of effort necessary. It's similar to saying an amount of money is due to settle a debt. Wikipedia has a reasonable introduction.

With this strict definition, you are probably correct to say that you cannot have "enough due diligence" — you either have the due amount (you have exercised sufficient diligence in your preparation), or you don't.

However, the meaning has subtly changed over time and nowadays the whole process of preparation is called "due diligence". Due no longer refers to a necessary amount.

With this changed definition, your colleague can be right.

That said, I think the new usage is regrettable, and it's not a pretty turn of phrase.

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Even in the new paradigm, there is no partial or excessive 'due diligence' -- the term has not eroded the semantic of 'due'. Talk such as 'how much due diligence was exercised' seems to be ill-informed. –  Kris May 15 '12 at 18:58
All said, the lady is referring not to auditing but to exam preparation. :-) –  Kris May 15 '12 at 19:01
@Kris: Actually I would contend that it has eroded the word "due" to no meaning at all. I've certainly had to deal with "How much due diligence" in the day job. I agree it's regrettable, and ill-informed almost to the point of being illiterate, but perhaps BizSpeak could be considered a dialect of English. –  Andrew Leach May 15 '12 at 19:08
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I don't see that any semantic value was added to the sentence by including the word "due", and (based on what we are told here) am inclined to infer it was included to further reputation, rather than communication.

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Not so. The purpose is to exclude 'over diligence'. –  Kris May 21 '12 at 15:02
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