Writing for Business

Aug 17 2009   5:29PM GMT

biweekly vs. semiweekly

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

typing Which is correct?
The licensing committee resolved to meet ________ to ensure that all members could attend at least once a week.
a. biweekly
b. semiweekly

Answer: b

Explanation: Biweekly means every two weeks; semiweekly means twice each week.

Grammar Girl has more on info on semiweekly vs. biweekly.

Breaking news! As David points out in the comment below, according to Merriam-Webster’s site, biweekly means both twice a week and every two weeks. So it looks like the smart thing to do is to avoid using the word at all.

From Grammar Girl:

I don’t know exactly when the change happened, but I know that it did happen. Every style guide I checked recommended avoiding words such as biweekly and bimonthly and instead just saying twice a week or every other week (1, 2, 3, 4). It’s more clear.

You can feel smart if you know the difference between biweekly and semiweekly, but if you write your invitations using those words half the people will probably show up on the wrong day, and that’s no way to run a meeting–unless you’re running a grammar society or a word-lovers club; then your members would probably appreciate the challenge.

4  Comments on this Post

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  • DP2000
    Hi Ivy, According to the Merriam-Webster OnLine Dictionary, biweekly can also mean occurring twice a week; therefore, both options are correct. I agree that option b is the preferred choice but that's not what you asked. Regards, David.
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  • Jaeo
    Hi David -- Thanks for taking the time to inform. How unhelpful of M-W, though! I suspect their decision is based on use. The effect is to make it impossible to know what someone means when they say "biweekly." I'll edit more info into the post. Thanks for commenting! Ivy
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  • Meandyou
    It seems that dictionaries are lowering their standards. I realize that definitions change over time. However, it seems that dictionaries are altering definitions faster and faster. It used to be only "college" dictionaries would have changes to words based on usage (e.g. appendixes) but now it seems that even others are following suit. I am sure that electronic communication is partly to blame for this continued dumbing down of America. Steve
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  • Jaeo
    Thanks for your comment, Steve. I could not agree more. And, in fact, I've come across numerous scornful references to Merriam-Webster as an example of lowered standards. Nevertheless, they're a recognized authority so their opinion has some weight. (That doesn't mean we have to agree with them, though. ;) ) Best, Ivy
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