Pro rata, pro ratad, prorate

One of our members of editorial staff wanted to use the adjective 'pro rata' as a verb, and asked the subs' desk how the past participle should be spelt. As far as I could see, there were three contenders:

  • pro ratad
  • pro rata'd
  • pro rataed

I considered them all, but they all seemed ugly and potentially jarring, so I advised the staff member to recast the sentence: for example, instead of writing 'the company pro ratad the salary', she should write 'the company paid the salary pro rata' (or, '...on a pro rata basis'). However is this a sufficient reason not to verb something – because it looks 'ugly' when written down?

And what would I have done had 'pro ratad' been used as a verb in a direct quote?

NB I see in my Oxford English Dictionary that there is a verb 'prorate': "allocate or assess pro rata". However this isn't in common use this side of the Atlantic, as the OED recognises, so isn't much of an option. But it would be a very useful verb to have...

4 comments:

THE GRAMMARPHILE said...

If a word/phrase looks ugly, I generally find another way to say it. I'm the one writing the damn thing, and nobody reading it knows that I would have really preferred to use the other word, but it looked too weird to use. :) So I frequently pick the best word for the situation that also happens to look the least weird.

fumier said...

I always use prorate, and 'correct' pro rata if I see it used as a verb (usually in legal documents), on the grounds that the meaning of prorate is obvious even if never seen before and and that to use pro rata as a verb is lazy and clumsy.

Anonymous said...

I've just had this argument with a load of friends, all of whom said that pro ratad (sic) was the correct past tense. None of them knew how they would spell it though.
I agree that the verb should be prorate and the past tense should be prorated.

Anonymous said...

Just started a job as a proof-reader about fifteen minutes ago, and this came in really handy! Thanks.