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I've been writing content for years, and over the last 6 or so, in marketing for software companies. Very often, I'll see sentences include "looking to" as a way to explain that the reader wants to do something. This galls me a bit, because "looking" isn't "doing."

For example: "Companies are looking to increase profits while keeping costs down."

Now, a sentence that includes the phrase explaining that someone is "looking to the future" or "looking to the east," is perfectly fine, but it nags at me that it's used to express intention.

Thoughts? Is this an acceptable phrase to use for intent?

Thanks for any insight.

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    Your question is about the meaning and stylistic usage of an English phrase. I think that you'll get better answers asking this over at english.stackexchange.com.
    – Ben
    Nov 16, 2023 at 20:03
  • Thanks - I'll remember that.
    – DKBingham
    Nov 21, 2023 at 15:52
  • I agree about asking elsewhere, but if you did post on English SE, they'd tell you to look it up in a dictionary and there you'd find as a meaning of look "4 b: to have in mind as an end"
    – Stuart F
    Jan 18 at 17:07

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Seems fine, but shorter is better: "Companies want to increase profits while keeping costs down." Or "seek to".

In sales copy, short clear sentences are better, they are punchier, they allow you to communicate more in the same limited space (or time if you are writing a script for a commercial), without resorting to "crowding" tricks like shaved spacing (kerning), narrowed fonts, lower point-sizes, etc.

And you never know the reading level of your audience. But even if you are writing for doctors, they don't mind reading simple copy. And you still have to appeal to their emotions and convince them your product solves a problem they have.

So not because of grammar, but practicality, "are looking" is less direct than "Want" or "seek". 11 characters instead of 4. make it simpler.

Do that throughout, and use the space saved for either added benefits, or more white space; which is also appealing in an ad.

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I think you are answering your own question. "Looking to" is clearly communicating an intention, a desire. That seems self-evident. On the subject of acceptability, you have an existence proof. Its not a one off phrase, but something wildly enough used that everyone knows what it means.

If they were to say "We intend to make more cookies next year," that would be be a simple statement of desire. 'Intend' as a verb is not active. It doesn't lend itself to visualizing anything in the mind's eye. Whereas, 'looking' does suggest action, peering through a telescope to count the moons of mars or scanning the horizon with binoculars for rare birds or high altitude bombers.

I think it is axiomatic that the more action a verb suggests the more persuasive it is in a sentence. And, since the kind of communications you are describing are, at their root, exercises in marketing -- do business with us, buy our stock, et cetera -- is stands to reason that they'd try and use the best verb they could imagine -- regardless of its technical accuracy.

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