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I've just heard: I have to make sure we hit the deadlines. There's a lot of emphasis on circulation figures this days...

I know we say "meet a deadline" when something is finished by the date it was supposed to be finished, but I haven't found "hit" meaning this in any dictionary. Would you say "hit a deadline" is a common collocation and a synonym with "meet a deadline"?

For example: Can you say If we can’t hit the deadline, they won’t give us another contract.?

  • Usually it is " meet the deadline and hit the headlines". – Misti Jul 7 '15 at 13:05
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No, it is not a common collocation. The preferred verb of the two, for taking deadline as object, is very clearly (according to Ngram) meet. Your interlocutor is probably confusing the journalistic imperative to meet one’s deadlines with the theatrical/cinematic imperative to hit one’s marks.

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The definitions behind the individual terms differ and it's easier, at a semantic level, to understand how 'meet' aligns with the sentiment of the phrase. 'Hit the deadline' is a more colloquial phrase and less formal. There is also the implied sentiment of enthusiasm or willingness to complete the task.

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I found the expression in one of the coursebooks. It was in the chapter about journalism and I believe there might have been a mistake and the speaker just could have meant: "I have to make sure we hit the headlines" (just one letter - 'h' instead of 'd.' It makes sense in the context of journalism and the recording in which it appeared.

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A puritan would argue that 'to hit a deadline' is grammatically wrong, illogical. To hit something means to impact on something, and you can't impact on a deadline, it can only be met or missed. Simon Heffer mentions this subject is his book Strictly English:The Correct Way to Write and why it Matters (which I can highly recommend).

I'm inclined to say that 'to hit a deadline' is not grammatical.

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