Monday, May 29, 2023

Choices you have when writing

I subscribe to a variety of newsletters and blogs, including Dr. Nancy Tuten’s Get It Write blog.

I enjoy Nancy’s blog and always learn something. Her most recent post was called: Bi and Semi as Prefixes. Having scratched my head about whether bimonthly means two times a month or every two months, I was keen to read Nancy’s take on it. I was kind of relieved to see that I’m not the only person confused and that, in fact, there's good reason to be confused.

Nancy explains the differences and concludes with this advice: 

“When we mean twice (“as in “twice a week” or “twice a month”), we can avoid ambiguity by using the prefix semi (as in semiweekly for “twice a week” and semimonthly for “twice a month”)."  

Simple, right?

Well, I smiled when I read Nancy's suggestion because she's a specialist in English grammar, mechanics, and usage and her advice reflects that. But, as a plain language practitioner, I’d argue that for the sake of a few extra words, the best way to avoid confusing the reader is to avoid the prefixes “bi” and “semi” altogether and simply write “two times a month” or “every two months”, depending on what you really mean.