Sigrid's Writing Tips !!!

Alternate and alternative often seem as though they are interchangeable, but they're not. They mean different things.


Used as a noun, an alternate is a standby. Think of an acting role where there is a main actor and an alternate. Alternate is also used as a verb, meaning to rotate. "I alternated my tires." But the most common and confusing use of the word is as an adjective where it means "occurring or succeeding by turn.” -- "Maria is taking a philosophy course on alternate Wednesdays."

An alternative is a choice or an option. I can write a movie review or I can edit a book of short stories; I have a choice between one or more things. That provides me with alternatives. "Maria took an alternative route when she saw the detour sign."

As Grammar Girl points out, alternate is often used incorrectly when we mean alternative, but because this usage is becoming so popular, it is acceptable in many situations. However, if you want to be official, there are differences between these terms and the best time to use alternative is when there is a choice involved. http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/alternate-versus-alternative.aspx

Thanks for choosing to read today's writing tip! I know that you had alternative ways to spend your time. Please feel free to forward this tip to your friends and fellow writers.

Read more about punctuation in my third book, Be Your Own Editor, available in print and now a category bestseller on Kindle.

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