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Write the Right Word: Avoid ‘Actual,’ ‘Actually’

“Actual” and “actually” are among the most overused words in the English language.

I’m sure you’ve heard something such as this: “I actually saw it happen!” or “What’s the actual situation?”

“Actual” and “actually” shouldn’t be used to suggest concepts such as at present, current, up to date, at this moment or now. If you saw something, such as an accident, all you need to say is, “I watched the cars collide.” Or if you want to know the latest news about a particular incident, just say, “What is the situation?”

Use “actual” or “actually” when you want to indicate something is a fact, not just a possibility, or you are attempting to correct a mistake or misunderstanding. For example, “The actual cost of the new building is $23 million.” Or this: “He actually attended NDSU, not South Dakota State University.”

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

Filed under: Written Communication
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