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  1. Truffles are among the world’s most valuable commodities, in terms of both economic and ecological worth.

  2. Truffles are among the world’s most valuable commodities, both in terms of economic and ecological worth.

Is one preferred over the other? If so, why? A colleague indicated that 'both in terms of' was grammatically incorrect, but could not state why.

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    Six of one or a half dozen of the other. Take your pick. – deadrat Mar 11 '17 at 19:41
  • Thanks. A colleague indicated that 'both in terms of' was grammatically incorrect, but could not state why.. – SoilSciGuy Mar 11 '17 at 19:42
  • Perhaps your colleague prefers his both to be as close to the first alternative (economic) as his and is to the second (ecological), but the Ngram viewer shows that the faraway choice (both in terms of) is slightly more popular. (Apply usual caveats to the use of this tool.) The faraway choice seems to make the fact of a duality a little more emphatic, but maybe that's just me. – deadrat Mar 11 '17 at 19:50
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I believe your colleague's position is based on the idea that a conjunction should coordinate elements of the same type.

in terms of both [economic (worth)] and [ecological worth]

satisfies this criterion ("worth" is omitted directly after "economic" due to ellipsis, but it is understood).

both [in terms of economic worth] and [in terms of ecological worth]

would also satisfy this criterion.

However,

both [in terms of economic (worth)] and [ecological worth]

seems to either coordinate unlike elements (a prepositional phrase and a noun phrase), or to express an incomplete thought (both [in terms of economic and ecological worth], and [...]).

See the usage note in the "Oxford Living Dictionaries" entry for both:

When both is used in constructions with and, the structures following ‘both’ and ‘and’ should be symmetrical. Thus, studies of zebra finches, both in the wild and in captivity is better than, for example, studies of zebra finches, both in the wild and captivity. In the second example, the symmetry of ‘in the wild’ and ‘in captivity’ has been lost. Other examples: her article is detrimental both to understanding and to peace (not her article is detrimental to both understanding and to peace)

I don't know if there is some other analysis according to which non-parallel use of "both" is grammatical. It certainly sounds acceptable to many native speakers, but that's not an absolute guarantee of grammaticality.

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