Word Choice: Continually vs. Continuously

Mixing up the words ‘continually’ and ‘continuously’ is something that even native English speakers do. This isn’t surprising given that they look very similar on the page and even have similar meanings in some senses (something which is ‘continuous’ while it happens can also happen ‘continually’).

In fact, before the word ‘continuously’ came along in the 1640s, ‘continually’ used to mean what ‘continuously’ does today! It’s only in the twentieth century that their definitions settled into modern usage.

It’s no wonder that people get these terms confused, despite there being an important difference between them. But, in Women Womens Ankle Wedge Low Shoes Boots Biker Leather Trim Buckle Black Boots Ankle Flat Honestyi Artificial Ladies dq8wOTXdt, even minor errors can make a big difference to how well your work reads. Herein, then, we explain how to use ‘continually’ and ‘continuously’.

Continually = At Regular/Frequent Intervals

Something ‘continual’ occurs at regular or frequent intervals. For example, if describing how computer technology gets faster with the release of every new processor we might say:

Computers have improved continually over the last few decades.

We also use ‘continually’ to describe something which repeats frequently in a short amount of time:

Jane didn’t want to go to the beach, but Alice’s continual nagging meant she gave in eventually.

The key here is that technology has progressed steadily, and that Alice has repeatedly asked her friend to go to the beach, but that there are nevertheless gaps between each occurrence. This is how ‘continual’ should be used: to mark situations where something repeats persistently but not without pause.

Continuously = Non-Stop

If something happens without cessation, we instead say that it happened ‘continuously’:

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The alarm across the street screeched continuously, giving Eli a headache.

Here, we are again referring to something which occurs persistently, but in this case ‘continuously’ implies that it occurs without interruption. This could be over a relatively short or a very long stretch of time:

Over the centuries, the River Murray has flowed continuously into the Indian Ocean.

Whatever the length of time over which something occurs, however, it’s only if it’s unceasing that it can be described as happening ‘continuously’.

Continually or Continuously?

It can be tricky to know which term to use in any given circumstance. Try to remember that ‘continuously’ only applies when something happens without interruption. If you’re not sure which to use, ask the question: could this occur without stopping?

For example, if I have hay fever, I might say that I ‘sneeze continually throughout the summer’, implying that I sneeze a lot. To sneeze ‘continuously throughout the summer’, however, would suggest that I experience one long sneeze. Which would be even more inconvenient.

Since these things can be pretty difficult to master, though, it never hurts to have your work checked by a professional. Here at Proofread My Document, we offer a comprehensive range of proofreading and formatting services. Simply send in a 500-word sample for free today!

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