control

This article series aims to eliminate usage errors and help non-native speakers to write clearly and fluently. We suggest that you always do proper research and use style guides effectively. For anything you are not sure of, feel free to ask us.

Misused word
control, ­to control, a control

Alternatives
audit, check, verify/verification, inspect/inspection, safeguard.

Explanation
To control does not usually mean “to audit,” “check” or “verify” and “a control” is not normally “a check” or “an inspection.” Its most common meaning is “to exercise authoritative or dominating influence over; direct.” Thus, if we say that “the Commission controlled project X in the Member States,” we do not mean that the Commission audited it, but that the Commission ran it.

Used as a noun, we do not “carry out” or “perform” controls. Controls are more likely to be systems that are in place (passport controls, for example). Hence, we can say that the Court checked to see if the key controls were working, but not that it carried out controls. When talking about systems, the best term will often be “safeguard.” For example, “a number of safeguards are built into the system to ensure that funds are spent correctly.”

Example
“Apart from the annual review of the reference amount, customs authorities are not obliged to carry out controls after authorisation.”

“Apart from the annual review of the reference amount, customs authorities are not obliged to carry out inspections after authorisation.”

Source
Misused English words and expressions in EU publications by Jeremy Gardner [Updated 8.11.2013]

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