Should you 'quit' or 'resign'?

A word for when you're outta there

If you're thinking about splitting, employment-wise, what are you going to call what you're doing? "Quitting"? "Resigning"? Or perhaps "retiring," or even "abdicating"? And should you consider "abnegating" too? We can't help you with the employment decision, but we can definitely help with knowing how to talk about it.

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'Resign' is often used in more formal settings, or in phrases like "resigned in disgrace" or "resigned in protest."

Quitting vs. Resigning

Quitting a job is the same thing as resigning from a job in most cases: either way you have chosen to no longer have that job. Resign is more at home in formal settings, but quit is perfectly acceptable in serious writing as well.

The words tend to enjoy different company: people are more likely to "resign in protest" (when they can no longer stomach the job they're being asked to do, or the bosses they're being asked to do it for), but "quitting in protest" is certainly done as well. Someone is also more likely to "resign in disgrace" (when it's become clear that people no longer trust them to do their job well, especially because of something scandalous), but nothing is stopping them from "quitting in disgrace" either. Again, there is not a great difference between the two not-gonna-bother-with-this-mess-anymore meanings of these words. But, if it makes you feel better, we welcome you to think of resigning as quitting when it puts on a bowtie—it's tidied up and starched, and occasionally a little more formal than it needs to be.

Retiring vs. Abdicating

The meaning of retire we are concerned with here is “to withdraw from one's position or occupation; to conclude one's working or professional career”: you are moving on career-wise. Abdicating is also about moving on career-wise but it's only applicable if that career involves a high position, office, or rank. To abdicate the throne, to use the most common example, is to formally give up any claim to it. In other words, retiring is typically for the commoners, and abdicating likely warrants lots of press coverage.

Abdicating vs. Abnegating

Abdicate is also used when it's duties and responsibilities that are being left behind. Someone who abdicates a responsibility fails to do what that responsibility requires them to do. In this use, it's similar to the even more formal word abnegate, which is also about leaving something behind. What people tend to abnegate, however, is rights, beliefs, or ideas, or sometimes desires or self-interest.

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