Writing for Business - A Whatis.com Blog

Jun 7 2010   3:07PM GMT

Substantial vs. substantive

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
Information extraction is a process intended to pull meaningful data from noisy text without making _________ changes in the author`s intended meaning.
a. substantial
b. substantive

Answer: a.

Explanation:
For sticklers, substantive refers to things that have substance — real things, rather than imaginary things — and substantial should be reserved to refer to things that are large or major. A substantial change is a big change; a substantive change is a change in the substance of something.

In fact, though, both words are often used for the first meaning. On the other hand, substantive doesn’t ever mean large or major.

Pain in the English has a debate about substantive versus substantial.

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