Word Choice – Currently Versus Presently

BizWritingTip reader: “Please comment on the proper use of the words ‘currently’ and ‘presently.’ ”

BizWritingTip response: This is an interesting question. While “current” and “present” mean the same when they are used as adjectives, the nuances of the words may differ when they are used as adverbs.

As adjectives, both words imply “now existing.”

Examples
He is the current speech writer.
The present CEO changed the policy.

However, when you use these words as adverbs, “currently” and presently,” the meanings may differ.

“Currently” still means “right now” or “at present.” But some grammar gurus say the meaning of “presently” changes to “at a future time.”

Examples
We are currently working on the proposal. (We are working on it right now.)
We intend to submit the proposal presently. (We are going to submit it soon.)

On the other hand, the Oxford Canadian Dictionary says that the North American definition of “presently” can be either “at the present time” or “after a short time.”

Example
We intend to submit the proposal presently. (This could mean either now or in the near future.)

This is confusing. I currently recommend you never assume the answer when you see “presently.” If the timing is important to you, then ask the writer to clarify it.

 

 

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