Word Choice – Simultaneously Versus Concurrently

BizWritingTip reader: “Can you use ‘simultaneously’ and ‘concurrently’ interchangeably? I checked several dictionaries, and they give the same definition for both words.”

BizWritingTip response: Yes, the dictionary does define both words as “occurring or operating at the same time,” and many people do interchange them.

However, “simultaneously” tends to be used more when there is some activity happening at the same time.

Ten people at the conference simultaneously checked their iPhones.

“Currently” is more commonly used for a non-action event.

There are two thousand people concurrently on our mail list.

I can see using “currently” or “simultaneously” in technical writing when perhaps the nuance is essential. However, I do not recommend using them in standard business writing. Remember, the goal of business writing is to convey information to a busy reader in a clear, courteous manner.

When you use $5 words, you may confuse your reader. If a writer has to research the meaning of a word, chances are the receiver may not fully understand the word either. In the North American business world, the 5-cent word is usually stronger.

Ten people at the conference checked their iPhones at the same time. (Simpler words replaced “simultaneously.”)
There are two thousand people on our mail list. (“Concurrently” was deleted. The present tense of the verb indicates it is “at this time.”)

A good example of the less-is-more way of thinking is the Gettysburg Address. It is only 271 words long. Two hundred and twenty of them, 81%, are just one syllable. My advice: think Lincoln when it comes to business writing.

190 Simultaneously Versus Concurrently