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While writing a personal statement, I wrote the following sentence.

"While shouldering many responsibilities at [company_name], I was the organiser of a speaker series, which sparked many discussions among the teams, ranging from X to Y".

I was thinking of using a word spurred instead of sparked.

Would spurred be an appropriate word to be used in this context?

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    Depends on the metaphor. Spark uses the Thought Is a Light-Medium theme, in which something spreads from one person to another like a burning ember spreading conflagration. Spur, on the other hand, is a heel-based horsewhip used to achieve more speed from a scared horse. That's not about ideas at all, but rather about tomorrow's assignment or some such onerous obligation. – John Lawler Dec 12 '16 at 21:26
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    Beautifully explained, @JohnLawler. The discussions were regarding the innovative ideas and thoughts. I think spark seems a good fit here. – Heisenberg Dec 12 '16 at 21:32
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    "Spark" means "start". "Spur" means "encourage" or "energize" something that was already started (but perhaps a bit lethargic). – Hot Licks Dec 12 '16 at 22:40
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    In particular, something that can be sparked does not need to be spurred. Spurring is for something that does not continue (esp. accelerate) on its own. You spark a prairie fire. You spur reluctant galley slaves to row faster. – Drew Dec 13 '16 at 0:19
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Discussions are usually sparked instead of spurred, though if a discussion is already happening then it could be spurred on. Think of something sparking a fire versus somebody spurring their horse to keep on moving (or to move faster).

You've got one nasty run on sentence there though. It's not entirely clear what you're actually trying to say (are you trying to tell them about the series that you organized or are you pointing out that you had a lot of responsibilities? And were the teams ranging from X to Y or were the discussion topics ranging from X to Y?) but as a general rule I've found that if you feel like you have to use a comma then you should think about just writing a new sentence. If something doesn't sound good when spoken then it's not going to sound good when it's read.

Making a few assumptions about what you were trying to communicate, something like this might work better:

I was able to take on many responsibilities while at ____. Among these responsibilities was the organization of a series of lectures on ____. This series sparked many discussions, on a variety of topics ranging from X to Y, among the teams.

Changing "organise" to "organize" is just a matter of me using American spelling.

  • Thank you for the feedback on the sentence structure. Your version of the sentence makes more sense. – Heisenberg Dec 13 '16 at 7:53
  • @Heisenberg No problem. You might like the edit that I just made a little better though. – Chib Dec 13 '16 at 21:36
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Merriam-Webster lists as one of the verb senses of spur:

to incite to action or accelerated growth or development: stimulate

And for spark:

(1) to set off in a burst of activity: activate. (2) to stir to activity: incite

The use of "stimulate" as a synonym for "spur" implies that something already exists to be stimulated, whereas "spark" seems like it can be used either as an act of creation or of stimulation.

So if you're thinking about discussions that already existed, "spurred" could be a good choice (or possibly "spurred on"). BUt if the conversations did not yet exist, then "sparked" might be the better choice.

Interestingly, both words are verb forms of nouns. The noun "spark" is something that comes into existence through various means, while a "spur" is an object used to make a horse go faster. "Spur" requires the horse already exist, but "spark" can just originate.

I think what it comes down to is whether or not the discussions already existed.

  • This is very helpful. Those discussions didn't exist earlier. Spark seems an apt word choice – Heisenberg Dec 13 '16 at 7:55

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