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I recently came across a description of a GitHub project that had a sentence similar to the following at the end:

Project collaborated by James Smith and Olivia Jones.

Does "collaborated by" make sense in the above sentence?
Does "collaborated on by" make more sense?
What word can be added or replaced to improve this sentence, while still sounding sophisticated?

  • Just for fun I did a search in GitHub for "collaborated by" and got over 400 results, so it seems like people do use it, although based on the responses received on this question, it does not seem correct. – Tot Zam Jul 26 '17 at 17:25
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It isn't idiomatic. Whether or not it makes sense depends on what you mean by sense. I suspect most people can probably make sense of it, but likely won't have heard it before.

collaborate

work jointly on an activity, especially to produce or create something (NOAD)

to work jointly with others or together especially in an intellectual endeavor (MW)

Collaborate is an intransitive verb that describes how people work together, not any process performed on an object.

It then doesn't make sense, according to how collaborate is generally used, to say a project was collaborated: collaborate doesn't take an object. The sentence, though, clearly means that people collaborated on the project; it just reads as tech- or headline-speak.

Google Ngrams shows that usage is increasing

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but this is trivial compared with collaborated on.

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This WordReference post reminds us that this uptick might be from confusion with corroborated by.

  • Is "collaborated on by" better, or should that also not be used? – Tot Zam Jul 26 '17 at 16:32
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    Sorry, meant to include that. Collaborated on by is better in that it follows the traditional usage of collaborate. However, it really exaggerates the passive voice and sounds awkward so I would avoid it. Still, it is more proper. (Interestingly, ngrams shows considerable higher frequency for collaborated by than for collaborated on by, but I am curious how many of those are supposed to be corroborated?) Takeaway: Don't use collaborated by without being aware that some people will judge you for it. Avoid using collaborated on by. Try to use active voice. – Unrelated Jul 26 '17 at 16:38
  • You explanation is really clear! I was also just looking at the Ngram for "collaborated by","collaborated on by", "collaborators are" and saw the same results, with "collaborated on by" scoring really low. I agree that is sounds awkward and wordy, but I also think "project collaborators are" sounds choppy. – Tot Zam Jul 26 '17 at 16:48
  • @TotZam, Another option would be James Smith and Olivia Jones collaborated on – Unrelated Jul 26 '17 at 16:51
  • That would need to be placed in the beginning of the description though, and that would change the whole focus of the content. Usually, when you are describing a project, you first want to mention what the project does. Who created it isn't as important, so would come second. – Tot Zam Jul 26 '17 at 16:59
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Project collaborators are James Smith and Olivia Jones.

EDIT

You collaborate with a person or persons. "Lucy collaborated with Frank and Tony to complete the task." You still collaborated with a person or persons if it was in the past.

You can collaborate on a task with someone. "They discovered they worked well together when collaborating on projects for the same clients."

"Collaborated in" is also valid usage. "Two laboratories collaborated in this project, one analyzing bone marrow cells and the other analyzing gut cells from the same animals."

But not collaborated by. Take a look at the various example sentences that can be found at ODO.

  • Based on your alternate suggestion, should I assume that "collaborated by" does not make sense? – Tot Zam Jul 26 '17 at 16:24
  • @TotZam Sorry, I was hurried when I posted the original. – MikeJRamsey56 Jul 26 '17 at 17:13

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