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I have a question about which word(s) to use for work you do as part of your job: task, duty or responsibility – or a combination of them? When I look up these words in my dictionaries, it seems that all three would work, even though they all have slightly different meanings (of course). Still, when I look at job ads and the like, it seems to me that it's more common to use duties and responsibilities as a heading for a description of what you're expected to do as part of your job, than to use tasks. Is this correct, or is tasks just as appropriate as duties and responsibilitites?

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There is subtantial overlap between these words. They are often interchanged, depending on the context. It is mostly a question of emphasis of accountability as to which word you would choose.

A task is some work operation you do. So it would be part of a job to do some task. You might write reports or you might load items on a truck or various other things. This puts very little emphasis on accountability. You just have to do these actions.

A duty means you are required to perform a task. It could well be expressed in a manner such as "you have to the duty to perform the following tasks." This means if you don't do the tasks correctly there will be consquences. So if you wanted to connect accountability to a task you might say duty.

Responsibility goes a tiny bit farther on that line. You might also use the word responsibility to indicate aspects of a job that are not specifically tasks. For example, you might indicate responsibility for the amount in the cash register matching the day's receipts. This implies that you must perform certain tasks to assure the correct amount of cash is in the register. But the way the responsibility would be expressed is that you are responsible if the cash and the records do not match. Meaning you would have to answer for it and make up the difference.

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  • What a lovely answer! Thanks! So, I guess my intuition that Duties and responsibilities is used more often than Tasks as a heading in a job description is correct then? Since in a job description, there's generally more focus on accountability than merely describing the work, right?
    – Helen
    Dec 26, 2021 at 20:35

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