Word Choice – Pertinent Versus Relevant

Muhammed’s question: “I have a beef about the use of pertinent’ versus relevant.’ Please throw some light on this so I can understand and use these words properly in a pertinent way!”

BizWritingTip response: According to the dictionary, relevant  means “having a bearing on the matter at hand.” Pertinent  means “relevant to the matter at hand.”

Although the definitions seem similar and many thesauruses interchange these words, there is a subtle difference. When something is relevant, it has something to do with the topic. When something is pertinent, it means it is significant. It will have an impact on the decision or the outcome.

Her holiday experience was relevant to our decision on where to vacation next. (We took her experience into consideration.)
We are working with a tight budget so cost information is pertinent. (Financial information is essential.)

I think of relevant information as being nice to know. Pertinent information is need to know.