Wrong Word Wednesday #60

Every week I demonstrate an example of poor English where a different word is used from the word intended. Usually, this creates a grammatically incorrect sentence and sometimes it sounds amusing, other times it sounds embarrassing. Unfortunately, the mistake is so pervasive that we all do it and such errors are usually made by those who should know better – journalists working for national or global media outlets such as newspapers and television.

Formally / Formerly

These do sound very similar, almost impossible to differentiate depending on your accent. People from London I think tend to pronounce them most similarly. Yet, of course, they have very different meanings and the difference is obvious when you remove the -ly in each case (strange how nobody confuses former and formal).

Formally – In an official capacity, a formal way. “I never studied hard sciences formally, my interest grew later in life”. “The suspect was arrested last night and formally charged this morning.”

Formerly – referring to something that is no longer the case, something that used to be… or used to be known as… “The artist formerly known as Prince”. “Mister Smith, formerly of Magnolia Crescent but now resident at Oxford Place…”

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