Word Choice – Next and Last

Lesley’s question: “Please volunteer your opinion on next or last. For example, if in 2014, I said I saw her last Christmas, I take this to mean I saw her at Christmas 2012, not Christmas 2013.”

BizWritingTip response: When next or last are used to describe a time, things get complicated. They mean different things to different people – even dictionaries cannot agree. I was taught to mentally add an additional word, such as year or week, to determine the meaning.

Examples (North American)
I saw her last (year’s) Christmas. (This would make it 2013.)
Today is Monday. I want to meet next Wednesday. (Next week’s Wednesday would be nine days from now.)
Today is Monday. I want to meet this Wednesday. (This week’s Wednesday is two days from now.)

However, this seems to be a North American custom.

The Oxford Dictionary states that next relates to the nearest following day.

Example (British)
Today is Monday. I want to meet next Wednesday. (This would mean in two days.)

My advice: Don’t use this and next when referring to a certain day without clarifying the date.

Example
I want to meet next Tuesday (the 12th).

Or, only talk to people who think like you.

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