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The saying goes, “Call a spade a spade.” But in the world of mergers and acquisitions, it’s more like calling a spade a shovel. The terms are not interchangeable. Rather, they’re most often used together, or merger is stated when the accurate term is actually acquisition.

Technically, there’s a considerable distinction between mergers and acquisitions. While both are the blending of two entities, the difference between the two revolves around the processes of how the two organizations are combined.

A true merger in which neither company’s processes take over the other’s is fairly uncommon, partially because it is costly to keep both companies’ processes alive.

The blending of two entities is frequently communicated both internally and externally as a merger, even when it’s technically an acquisition, likely because the term merger is more palatable to the seller and seller’s team. The term acquisition often bears negative connotations for the company that was purchased, even with a successful, desirable sale.

When you read about a merger in the news, take a closer look. You may discover that in the purest sense, it’s truly an acquisition. However, the companies and people involved may benefit from the positive associations with the term merger, making it acceptable, and even constructive, to call it a merger. In the end, sometimes calling a spade a shovel is the right thing to do.