Lady Macbeth has plotted this out carefully and diligently.

Can I use the word "plot" in such a way? I know most people would want to replace that with "planned", but I don't want to keep using that word.

3 Answers 3


Plot (out) is a verb, and its use in your example is grammatical.

  • 1
    I suppose it's "just about" okay to include out. Still, I think it's worth noting that Google Books claims 141 hits for "conspirators plotted the", as opposed to none at all for "conspirators plotted out the". Personally I'm not all that keen on OP's usage - just as I wouldn't use schemed transitively. Whereas calculated, contrived, devised seem like reasonable substitutes to me. Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 21:06

I sense there's a instinctive doubt here in terms of whether to use 'plot' as a transitive verb, or 'to plot out' as a transitive phrasal verb. In my mind, to plot a line on a graph, to plot to kill someone (intransitive) indicate a more linear activity than 'to plot out', which gives more the sense of a mind map than a list; an expansive, more intuitively flowing plan, rather than a logical more linear one. There's a sense in which with 'plot', the verb is just echoing the meaning of the noun, but extending the capture of it in writing once the plot, or at least the individual steps which are being written down, have been more or less finalised, or that there's more certainty in relation to them; whereas 'plot out' implies that the writing down and the creation happen more simultaneously by comparison, with less certainty. I would say 'to map the territory' and 'to map out the territory' imply the same distinction. Hence, in this context, I think 'plot' rather than 'plot out' would be more appropriate. If the distinction is accepted, it would imply that there is a more rational, premeditated, cold, calculating quality to her planning than a passion-driven instinctive non-linear approach.

  • My very thoughts. There are two problems - the transitive usage, and the inclusion of out (which I think is more appropriate when plotting out values on a graph). Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 21:09

But I think plot has a negative connotation (e.g. plot an assassination). What exactly was Lady Macbeth planning to do?

  • 2
    Actually I would be surprised to hear any positive connotations when it comes to the lady's planning. Plotting and scheming, and indeed murder were not too much for her. She planned to get her husband on the throne, by any means necessary. It supposedly drove her mad eventually, and she died.
    – oerkelens
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 20:22
  • Touché. Point well-taken. :-)
    – Louel
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 20:24
  • Yes, that is the rational of my diction. Thank you for the help. :)
    – user64490
    Commented Feb 2, 2014 at 20:32

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