What is the difference between "increasingly less" and "decreasingly"?


  • Selling X is getting increasingly less profitable.
  • Selling X is getting decreasingly profitable.

Taken out of context, there is no difference. "Decreasingly profitable" is an awkward turn of phrase, but it's not ungrammatical.

In an appropriate context -- say, a corporate announcement -- "increasingly less profitable" could be an example if not of actual doublespeak then at least of sugarcoating bad news.

If you say something is decreasingly profitable it's one word with a negative connotation ("decreasingly") paired with a similar-length word with a positive connotation ("profitable"). "Increasingly less profitable" is two long, positive words paired with one short, negative word. It sounds more pleasant even though it means exactly the same thing.

Of course no one with half a brain is fooled by this -- but nevertheless this kind of verbiage is ubiquitous.

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Selling X is getting increasingly less profitable

Indicates that selling X is still profitable, but less than it has been and increasingly means the rate at which it is becoming less profitable is going up.

Selling X is getting decreasingly profitable

Only indicates that the profitability of selling X is going down.

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  • 2
    This sounds like a distinction without a difference, sorry. – Robusto Nov 11 '16 at 20:45
  • 1
    Not quite. "increasingly less" implies something that "decreasingly" doesn't. In the latter, profitable is modified by decreasingly whereas in the former, "increasingly" modifies "less" not "profitable" thus it is increasing in being less profitable (e.g. as when a price dives) – eques Nov 11 '16 at 20:52
  • 1
    My point is that I don't think anyone will see that difference except in a strained, sophistic way. – Robusto Nov 11 '16 at 21:12
  • I would theorize that either phrase would occur in technical writings where you might talk about derivatives (in the mathematical sense) thus rate of change for something like profitability might be discussed – eques Nov 12 '16 at 1:05

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