Posted by: Jack Henry | June 4, 2019

Editor’s Corner: Emigrate and immigrate

Good morning, fellow travelers!

Now and then, I find an interesting tidbit from the Chicago Manual of Style that I like to share with you. Today’s selection isn’t a matter of grammar or punctuation, but it is a set of words that we hear quite often in the news: immigrate and emigrate. What I find interesting is that you can use either word, depending on what you want to emphasize: where the person is going, or where they are coming from. The explanation is as follows:

Q. The emigrate/immigrate distinction has been the subject of differing opinions in our office. Each time a case arises, we consult CMOS 5.250 and come up with different interpretations. Editing the following sentence, for example, we changed “immigrate” to “emigrate”: Justice Abella was born in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany, and with her family immigrated to Canada in 1950. Several of us argue that it’s “immigrate” because she’s going to Canada; others say “emigrate” because she’s leaving a past home. Please let us know which is correct.

A. In the example you cite, either term is correct. To emphasize Justice Abella’s departure from Germany, choose emigrate; to emphasize the move to Canada, choose immigrate. In the former case, “from Germany” is understood:

Justice Abella was born in a displaced persons camp in Stuttgart, Germany, and with her family emigrated [from Germany] to Canada in 1950.

You could avoid the issue altogether by choosing “migrate,” but that term is more often applied in relation to movement between regions (e.g., south to north) than to specific countries.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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