We're drafting some legal stuff, and our lawyer used this phrasing...

...whether any particular enhancement is to be categorized as such shall be made in the sole reasonable discretion of [company]...

I always thought it was "at the sole discretion of..."

Are there situations where "in" is permissible or preferred?

  • I would certainly use 'at'. – WS2 Feb 11 '14 at 16:08
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    I think the use of 'in' here reflects that it falls within their discretion whereas 'at' would mean that it is left to their discretion. I take the latter to mean that in ambiguity they make a judgment whereas the former means that they perhaps provide professional services and are constantly using their expertise. But it could just be bad typing for all I know. – virmaior Feb 11 '14 at 16:25
  • @virmaior: I think that's misguided overanalysis. They always mean the same. As often happens, there's no real "semantic" argument in favour of one preposition over another. And any given choice is only "wrong" if hardly anyone else uses it. Which isn't the case here. – FumbleFingers Feb 11 '14 at 16:34
  • @FumbleFingers, Rereading my own comment, its over-stated and lacks a material qualifier as to why I even guessed as how one would distinguish them. For normal writing, I would agree it's a waste. Legal writing, however, is its own animal not always built on our normal concepts of language. A cursory google search shows in the discretion as being preferred for courts themselves and at the discretion being preferred for classroom instructors. – virmaior Feb 11 '14 at 17:02

As a Brit, I find at natural here. This is the NGram for BrE corpus...

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But apparently, Americans are just as likely to use in. Here's the AmE NGram...

enter image description here

Of course, there's no real concept of "right" and "wrong" here beyond what others normally say. If you're writing it yourself, and your target audience is British, you should probably go for at (but given the US is the world’s most litigious society, it would be unwise to argue with an American lawyer who prefers in! :)

  • Good dialog, good answers! Giving the check to Fumble for the graphs and legal ref. – Frank Koehl Feb 11 '14 at 17:53

In most situations at is the most common usage. But in is also correct and seems to be in wide use. So I'd say they are interchangeable, with the first being the obviously preferred choice and the second less so, but still grammatical.

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