Word Choice – Continual Versus Continuous
Linden’s question: “I’m wondering about the difference between ‘continuous’ and ‘continual.’ We’re trying to develop a mission statement and are debating whether we trying to ‘continually achieve excellence’ or are trying to ‘continuously achieve excellence.’ Or does it matter which word we use?”
BizWritingTip response: These two words are often interchanged but, according to the Oxford dictionary, they have different meanings. Continual refers to something that is constantly or frequently reoccurring. In other words, although it happens often there are intervals in between.
I am continually forced to edit his reports. (It happens often.)
The weather forecasters say it will snow continually in January. (Expect a number of snowfalls.)
On the other hand, continuous means unbroken or uninterrupted. It occurs non-stop.
The continuous flickering of the lights in the boardroom drove me crazy. (constant flickering)
We are trying to continuously achieve excellence. (always)
Years ago, people had to continually (frequently) wind their watches to ensure the timepieces were running continuously (always).
Question: With regard to the mission statement, wouldn’t it be easier to just “strive for excellence”?