Can someone give me the words to describe what is wrong with the use of 'evolving' in this sentence? I know how to make it sound better, but I don't know how to explain to my writer what is wrong.

A new frontier of data collection is evolving how we interact with our world...'

In this context "A new frontier of data collection" is marketing-speak describing the birth of a data collection industry based around the use of innovative digital tools/techniques that didn't exist a few years ago. So while that part of the sentence also looks odd, it makes sense in the broader context in which it is being used.

My main question is - is the use of the word "evolving" here ungrammatical, or is it just unusual?


I think it is just unusual. It doesn't sound wrong to me as a native speaker and the dictionary lists the following definition:

Develop gradually.
[with object] ‘each school must evolve its own way of working’
Oxford Dictionaries

More precisely, the Oxford English Dictionary (which is a different dictionary from the one quoted above) has the following definition:

transitive. To produce or give rise to (a condition, circumstance, process, etc.) as a natural consequence. Also intransitive: to arise.

It quotes the following which is pretty close in form to your quote:

Timurid architecture evolved that vibrant vocabulary of colour and form.
Story Islamic Architecture, 1999


I don't believe that this transitive use of evolve is quite right, that one thing can evolve another, rather a species is seen as evolving its attributes.

We can say

The spoonbill has evolved a highly specialised beak for feeding ...

We don't say

The muddy estuary conditions evolved the spoonbill

I'm not really sure that frontiers are capable of doing anything, but if we accept this marketing term then we might say

A new frontier of data collection stimulates evolution in how we interact with the world.

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