A reader of this website has written to ask me if the word bimonthly means “twice-a-month” or “once-every-two-months”.
Well, The Macquarie Dictionary gives two definitions for bimonthly.
The first says: “occurring every two months” and the second says: “occurring twice a month; semi-monthly”.
In saying that the Macquarie is not having a two bob each way – it is accurately reporting the linguistic facts.
I’m afraid that bimonthly really does mean both, and can be used with either meaning.
In the publishing industry bimonthly is used consistently to mean “every two months” – but everywhere else the meaning is ambiguous.
My advice: don’t use it!
Say “twice a month” or “every two months”.
The same ambiguity infects biannual or biweekly: much better to say “every two years” or “twice a week”.
In communication clarity counts – in fact, it counts for about 90% of the effectiveness of communication.
So, join me in the battle against ambiguity and ban all the time period words that begin with “bi-”!
NOTE: I'll be on Sky News with Peta Credlin tonight--to talk about the last of the long list of "word woes" raised by her viewers.
PODCAST: I have just appeared as a guest on the BCC Radio podcast--with Tim Blair, Nick Cater, and Simon Collins. You can listen to the podcast here:
* If you're looking for my most recent book "Flash Jim" you'll find it here -- Flash Jim, The astonishing story of the convict fraudster who wrote Australia's first dictionary by Kel Richards | 9781460759769 | Booktopia
* You can find all my books currently in print here -- Booktopia Search Results for 'kel richards'. We sell books, hardback, paperback, audio, CDs.
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