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Write the Right Word: Semiannual or Biennial

Writers often confuse “semiannual” with “biennial.” They’re not the same, though.

I don’t know of an easy trick to remember which is which. “Semiannual” means twice a year. For example, “The producer holds his semiannual sheep sales in May and September.”

“Biennial” means every two years. For instance, “The organization will hold its biennial convention in June.”

Another word for “semiannual” is “biannual.” Unfortunately, its spelling is so close to “biennial” that it could lead to further confusion.

Note that semi and bi aren't hyphenated. They generally shouldn't be unless the letter that follows is the same letter - for example, semi-invalid.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391  

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