GrammarPhile Blog

Words, Words, Words

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Apr 10, 2012 5:30:00 AM

magnifying glassYour choice of words will affect your job rating. It will affect the options you have regarding your career. Most important, it will affect the "readability" of your next newsletter, Web page, brochure, or proposal. So choose your words wisely!

Guideline. Continually is preferably used for conditions of time and continuously for conditions of space.

  • He worked continually.
  • The bar at the Old West Saloon runs continuously for nineteen feet.

Common usage often employs continuously in both instances but keeping the distinction can help clarity and heighten impact.

PRESENTLY: is to come
Guideline. Presently is often used to mean "at present" or "currently" but its proper meaning is "in the near future" or "soon." In Great Britain presently retains its meaning of "in a short time." If presently is made a synonym of "currently" and "at present" then the flexibility and range of all these words are lost.

EACH OTHER and ONE ANOTHER: one or t'other
Guideline. Use each other to refer to two persons or things; one another for more than two.

  • The two skiers had great respect for each other's skills.
  • The four winners congratulated one another.

IF & WHETHER: Chances are
Guideline. Use if when you're expressing a single condition. Use whether when the condition involves two possibilities. If you're using whether, you can usually omit the or not. Exception: when you want to give equal emphasis to both possibilities.

  • If[only one possibility] it rains next Sunday, the race is off.
  • Whether[two possibilities: rain or no rain] it rains next Monday is not my concern.
  • Whether it rains next Tuesday or not, the grammar tip will still be sent. (Equal emphasis is given here to the possibility of rain occurring or not occurring.)

IN BEHALF OF & ON BEHALF OF: Interested parties
Guideline. Use in behalf of when your actions are designed to benefit somebody. Use on behalf of when you are acting as somebody's representative.

  • I know I am speaking on behalf of [as a representative for] everyone on our waterskiing team when I tell you how pleased I am to be giving this Mastercraft tow boat in behalf of [in the interests of] the Saranac Lake Tournament Foundation.

LIABLE & LIKELY: Looking ahead
Guideline. Use likely when you're dealing strictly with likelihood. Use liable when that likelihood involves a possibly unhappy outcome.

  • The way things look now, we're likely to be [should be] finished with all the waterskiing tournament plans by next Saturday. (likelihood and no danger)
  • If you're not careful when you're going for that last buoy, you're liable [in danger of] to get hurt. (danger but not necessarily likelihood)
  • If you're not careful when going off the jump, you are likely to hurt yourself. (both danger and likelihood in this situation)

Source: Jim Engell, professor of English at Harvard

Topics: continuously and continually, presently, each other and one another, if and whether, in behalf of and on behalf of, liable and likely

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