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I am having difficulty whether to use the word by or in in the following sentence. Which is (more) grammatically correct of the two, and which would be clearer to understand:

Its population as recorded by the 2016 Census was 6,000.

Its population as recorded in the 2016 Census was 6,000.
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Populations are neither recorded in, or by, a census. A census is a process that counts the individual elements in a population. A better sentence would be, "Its population as determined by the 2016 census was 6000."

  • Thanks. Would you think though that Its population as reported by the 2016 census was 6000. is better (or not)? – JAT86 Apr 15 '18 at 23:50
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    If we are considering a formal census, as you seem to be (e.g., "the 2010 US Census"), then census should be capitalized; if not, lower case is OK, but I suspect you are referring to "the 2016 Census." In that case Census refers to the entire process from initial planning through issuing the final report. In that sense, the Census determines the size of the population. – DrBB01 Apr 18 '18 at 20:36
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Its population as recorded by the U.S. Government in the 2016 Census.

Does that make the difference clearer? In general, "by the 2016 Census" would be understood to mean "by the government that carried out the 2016 Census." But in this particular sentence, "by" would place the emphasis on either the agent that recorded the population or how the population was recorded, "in" would place the emphasis on where the population was recorded.

  • This answer contradicts your earlier answer. Although you now have the population recorded by the U.S. Government—you also have it recorded in the 2016 Census. If you want to be strictly accurate (assuming your first answer is correct), you should say "Its population as recorded by the U.S. government in its record of the 2016 Census." – Jason Bassford Apr 16 '18 at 5:49
  • (Or, interpreting "in" differently, "Its population as recorded by the U.S. government [during | after the results of] the 2016 Census.") – Jason Bassford Apr 16 '18 at 5:57

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