Posted by: Jack Henry | October 6, 2017

Editor’s Corner: Economic or Economical?

I recently wrote a post about the words historic and historical. And that research got me thinking about the words economic and economical. Are these words interchangeable?

They are often used interchangeably, but they have distinct meanings. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, economic means “relating to economics or the economy.” The word economical means “giving good value or return in relation to the resources used or money spent; sparing in the use of resources or money.”

Daily Writing Tips has this take on this word pair:

So, government policies to do with finance would be economic but fuel-efficient cars would be described as more economical.

The main confusion arises when writers use “economic” when they really mean “economical.” Take, for example, the phrase “economical with the truth,” a euphemism for lying brought into popular usage by the British civil servant Robert Armstrong.

Armstrong used the phrase correctly, but many do not, referring instead to being “economic with the truth.” A simple web search will reveal many thousands of instances of this phrase, although it is essentially meaningless.

In colloquial English, the distinction between the two words is often blurred, but it is always useful to know the correct meanings.

As an aside, the adverb for both words is the same: economically.

I’ll sign off now to make sure that this post is an economical use of your time.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

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