Posted by: episystechpubs | August 15, 2014

Editor’s Corner: Alternatively vs. alternately

Happy Friday, everyone! Many of you will be glad to hear that I have just purchased a couple of books of misheard song lyrics (mondegreens)—I know that is favorite Friday fare for you language lovers. Today I just have something simple, though, from a mistake I heard on our local public radio station.

The newscaster was announcing a story about the riots over in Ferguson, Missouri and said, “People are rioting and alternatively looting. More in ten minutes.” Though the story is serious, I laughed. I thought, “That’s nice, people have the option to riot or to loot.” Then I realized I should do an Editor’s Corner on alternately vs. alternatively, since those two are still frequently confused word couples.

Alternatively means offering a choice between two things; alternately means taking turns or doing one thing and then another. Using this example, here two ways to translate the statement:

· “People are rioting and alternatively looting.” Some people are choosing to riot; those who aren’t rioting have decided to do some looting, instead.

· “People are rioting and alternately looting.” People are rioting, and then looting, and then rioting some more. Then maybe more looting?

I guess it depends what the rest of the story is about to determine which word is really the most accurate, but neither alternately nor alternatively seem like the right word here.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

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