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A text I wrote (well, translated actually) contained the phrase:

"the question is highly complex".

After more than a year (!) it's been returned to me with some corrections, and the phrase above has been corrected to "vastly complicated". My first instinct was that this is not right. But I checked on google and found that "vastly complicated" DOES occur but I notice two things about the results:

1) it is attributive i.e. it occurs before the noun rather than as the predicate of the sentence,

2) in all of the finds the word "vastly" seems also to relate to the "vastness" of the noun, not just to the amount of complexity (or complicatedness).

....vastly complicated plot...

....vastly complicated orchestra...

I'm aware that technically complex and complicated also differ in meaning, (complex meaning made of more than one part) but in this particular text I consider that irrelevant. More importantly, complicated has a negative connotation that complex does not. And in my text, the "question" is not treated as negative - indeed it's very interesting and the essayist spends 36 pages answering it.

So my final question is, which would you vote for? The question is highly complex? or The question is vastly complicated?

  • What is your own take on the difference in the dictionary meanings of the two words ? – Nigel J Mar 20 '18 at 11:21
  • 'I'm aware that technically complex and complicated also differ in meaning' is most unhelpful. 'The senses and distributions (ie where they are typically used in individual sentences) of complex and complicated do not overlap precisely.' // I can't see 'highly complex' being unacceptable here, but perhaps more context is needed to allow a reasonable judgement. '[V]astly complicated' is not incorrect, but 'extremely complicated' is a far more ... – Edwin Ashworth Mar 20 '18 at 11:32
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    idiomatic collocation {Google Ngrams}, whether used attributively or predicatively. You're right to be concerned about the 'correction'. Look up the extended strings/collocations "question is highly complex", "highly complex question" and other permutations on Ngrams for yourself. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 20 '18 at 11:32
  • It has likely been returned to you as the reader is of the opinion that "highly complex" is an understatement when referring to a question eliciting a 36 page response. I doubt they are dictating "vastly" as being the only word that would do, but prompt you into picking a stronger term. – Paul Childs Mar 20 '18 at 13:45
  • Paul - thank you, however I am also constrained by the choice of words in the original (which I did not refer to because this is not a translation forum). – Richard Robinson Mar 20 '18 at 14:21

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