Usage and Grammar

Q. I am an editor having a debate with some authors over their use of this article title: “Intangible Values of Palliative Nursing Care.” I have told them that it doesn’t make sense because there is no such thing as a value that is tangible, despite the existence of accounting terms such as “tangible value.” I prefer a title such as “Intangible Elements of Palliative Nursing Care.” What is your take on this?

A. Our take is that a good dictionary can prevent many an editorial squabble. Both tangible and intangible have a figurative meaning, which is why “tangible value” makes sense to accountants. In the same way, intangible makes sense in the article title. See Merriam-Webster Unabridged, under intangible (“2 : incapable of being defined or determined with certainty or precision”).