Wrong Word Wednesday #60

Every week I demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the word intended. Usually, this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence and sometimes it sounds amusing, other times it sounds embarrassing. Unfortunately, the mistake is so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television.

Formally / Formerly

These do sound very similar, almost impossible to differentiate depending on your accent. People from London I think tend to pronounce them most similarly. Yet, of course, they have very different meanings and the difference is obvious when you remove the -ly in each case (strange how nobody confuses former and formal).

Formally – In an official capacity, a formal way. “I never studied hard sciences formally, my interest grew later in life”. “The suspect was arrested last night and formally charged this morning.”

Formerly – referring to something that is no longer the case, something that used to be… or used to be known as… “The artist formerly known as Prince”. “Mister Smith, formerly of Magnolia Crescent but now resident at Oxford Place…”


Have something to say? Go on, you know you want to:

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.