Is this statement unusual or unidiomatic (or straightforward incorrect)?

"His ambiguity leaves margin for interpreting it as a good sign".

Here, to "leave a margin for" should be understood as similar to "leaves room for", "allows a given interpretation".

I found very few hits when searching for this expression on Google Scholar, most seemed from foreign researchers.

  • Ambiguity by definition leaves room for interpretation. Thank you so much for coming in today to interview is ambiguous enough to be a gracious sign of high interest or formulaic BS suggesting and there is the door. All the sentence needs to say is "I took his ambiguity as a good sign." Sep 5 at 3:54
  • 1
    I would say leave margin for error, and leave room for interpretation. Those are the idioms I know, maybe it's a malaphor?
    – Mark
    Sep 5 at 11:26
  • [correction: in a financial context]
    – Lambie
    Sep 5 at 15:18
  • leave a margin for [whatever: interpretation, error, etc.]
    – Lambie
    Sep 5 at 15:19
  • To leave margin for something may be idiomatic in financial contexts
    – Sam
    Sep 5 at 15:23

2 Answers 2


It would sound much more natural as “His ambiguity leaves room to interpret it as a good sign.”

To leave margin is not idiomatic English.

  • I don't think your version makes much sense....
    – Lambie
    Sep 5 at 15:20
  • It’s not clear, @Lambie, where you see faults in it. As for me, I find the originally cited passage clumsy: I have assumed that the antecedent of it is the same thing, event, idea, or whatever as the topic about which “he” is “ambiguous.” Sep 5 at 19:36

While a little old fashioned, "margin for," "leaves margin for" and "leave a margin for" are all idiomatic English

"There's no margin for error." "We need to leave a margin for error." "That advantage leaves margin for error."

According to Google Ngrams, usage peaked in the 1880s, pretty much falling to it's current rarity by the 1980s

  • I note that Google Ngrams also indicates that margin of error is—and always has been—far more common. (Okay, since 1700) Sep 5 at 12:58
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    A margin is something that is aside from the main element, like the margin on the side of the text in a book. For instance, "margin of error" evokes the idea of deviating from an accurate result, but still being safe inside a margin. So, yes "leaves margin for" can work in some contexts, but probably not in all contexts. "Room for interpretation" is probably much better than "margin for interpretation", unless you want to paint an interpretation as being "a little bit off, but still acceptable".
    – Stef
    Sep 5 at 13:31
  • but that has a different meaning @PaulTanenbaum
    – JCRM
    Sep 6 at 9:45
  • Ok, @JCRM, I guess I see what you mean. Sep 6 at 11:54
  • @JCRM This is a good point, but all your examples use "margin for error". Would you say the same applies to "margin for" + "interpretation", "solutions" or something other than error?
    – flen
    Sep 8 at 22:07

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