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I proof read a letter for a friend today. The body of the letter explained various situations over a 2 day period that made her uneasy. In her closing she wrote "I know this has been a very lengthy accounting of what took place over only two days" - it doesn’t SOUND right to me, I feel that it should say "a lengthy account of what took place".... I could very well be wrong but just would like to know! Thanks!

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    'Accounting' is not unacceptable, but 'account' sounds less unusual, here. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 27 '18 at 1:27
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From Merriam-Webster, the third sense of accounting is:

3 : ACCOUNT 2 They were required to provide a detailed accounting of their actions.

what accounting can you give for your bizarre actions on the night in question?

The second sense of account that is referenced is:

a statement explaining one's conduct

This sense of accounting is essentially synonymous with account.

So, the use is not wrong—even though it is less common.

  • The subtle difference, to my mind at least, is accounting for one's actions tends to imply some kind of justification of those actions, whereas "an account of one's actions" can be more just a list of those actions. – TripeHound Jul 27 '18 at 11:09
  • An account is a story and an accounting, its delivery. – Lawrence Jul 27 '18 at 16:47
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Yes, it is not correct technically.

Although her intended meaning is pretty clear, your "a lengthy account" is the best version. She could have said "...a very lengthy recounting of what took place...", to emphasize her feelings that her story or the way she told it was too drawn out.

"...a lengthy account..." might simply emphasize that since a lot has occurred, the story is simply going to be a long one if it is going to cover all of the relevant details.

A "very lengthy accounting" would require itemized spreadsheets with number amounts, which is clearly not the intended meaning here.

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    The first dictionary I checked in gave (among others) the sense 'an account' for 'an accounting'. So it is technically correct. Though not the idiomatic choice. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 27 '18 at 1:25

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