Are you eager or anxious?

Writers and speakers sometimes mix up “eager” and “anxious.” Here is a sentence from a wire service story about a football player who was returning to play with his team: Anxious to get on the field, Davis temporarily was held up when he couldn’t find his helmet. Earlier in the story, the writer had described the player as “eager.” I don’t think “eager” and “anxious,” in this particular case, can apply to the same state of mind or demeanor.

“Anxious” connotes dread or apprehension: The 16-year-old girl was anxious about taking the driving test because she feared that she would not pass. “Eager” implies that a person is looking forward with pleasure: The 16-year-old boy was eager to take the driving test because he wanted to display his skill behind the wheel. If you are applying for a job, you should be “eager” to hear from the company, not “anxious.”

The Wonderful Writing Skills (Un)Handbook, an odd site that I ran across recently, has a discussion of “eager” and “anxious.” (Try to ignore the annoying punctuation.)

Keywords: grammar guide, language, writing

This article was originally posted by the Raleigh News & Observer, a subsidiary of The McClatchy Co.; is posted here to provide continuity; and is copyright © 2011 The News & Observer Publishing Company, which reserves the right to remove this post.