6

What is the appropriate verb for the word "diary," if I want to express the process of recording personal experiences every day? (Maybe not in an actually book but typing them in a computer.)

Merriam-Webster suggests me to use "keep a diary". But when I searched the phrases with Google, there were about 700,000 results for "keep a diary," about 1.6 million results for "take a diary," and about 1.2 million results for "write a diary." Which one is more correct? Or are they actually interchangeable? Or are they all correct but they have different meanings?

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    'Take a diary' is hardly related to the others; compare 'lose a diary'. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 26 '18 at 20:45
  • Those Google search results also include cases where someone misspelled "dairy." – barbecue Mar 26 '18 at 20:58
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The problem here is that the number of hits Google says you have is wrong.

Using the right tool will give a more accurate picture. I searched COCA for _v* a diary, which finds a verb followed by "a diary". There I get:

  • ~212 results for "keep* a diary" (where "keep" includes "kept", "keeping", etc.). Some dictionaries (such as this one) explicitly list this sense of "keep". It's really no different than "keeping records".
  • ~15 results for "write* a diary" (again, this includes other forms of "write").
  • no hits for "take a diary", although I could see it being used if you meant "remove": "take a diary from the pile".

The winner is: keep a diary.

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    Maybe you could add additional information for why keep is used. My suspicion is because it's typically a daily or regular occurrence and so the diary is "kept" up to date. Just a guess though. – John Mar 26 '18 at 18:35
  • Google ngrams (based on usage in their corpus of books) corroborates this, with "keep a diary" having a frequency nine times that of "write a diary", and the occurrence of the phrase "take a diary" negligible in comparison. books.google.com/ngrams/… – Green Grasso Holm Mar 26 '18 at 18:52
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    You have to be very careful with raw Google results. Look at actual hits to see what's going on. For "take a diary", I see very quickly: "Take a diary and start writing." "Lots of things can affect the way you feel, from the weather to the medicines you take. A diary can help you track ...". "Take a diary and a pen wherever you go." "What a unique and interesting concept: take a diary of a 15 year old boy and write a virtual living history book around it!" In none of these cases is "take a diary" used to convey the general notion of having and regularly writing in a diary. – Green Grasso Holm Mar 26 '18 at 18:56
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    @EdwinAshworth, that's basically what I was saying. I think adding that to the answer helps distinguish that keep in this sense includes more than simply maintaining possession of something, which is why it's more appropriate than "write". – John Mar 26 '18 at 20:50

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