Get expert advice to help you get published!

You are here

Commonly confused words in research writing: "alternate" and "alternative"

Yateendra Joshi | Jan 27, 2014 | 38,086 views
Commonly confused words in research writing: "alternate" and "alternative"

Synonyms are words with similar meanings, although the exact shade of meaning may be different. This post, however, deals with pairs of words that are not synonyms but pairs in which one member is sometimes, and erroneously, mistaken for the other.

In communicating what you mean, synonyms do not pose as serious a problem as confusables do. Nearly and Almost, for example, are practically interchangeable. But writing alternate when you mean alternative can jeopardize the clarity of what you are trying to convey.

The difference between alternate and alternative is equally clear cut-at least in British English: alternate implies two possibilities only one of which can occur at a given time; a bar code, for example, consists of alternating strips of black and white. If an event is described as occurring on alternate days and if it occurs, say, on Monday, it cannot occur on the Tuesday that follows. Alternate thus suggests taking turns: first one thing, then the other, and then the first thing again.

Alternative suggests options or choices: the sun and the wind are alternative sources of energy or an e-mail message is a faster alternative to "snail mail" (i.e., a message sent through the post office).

You can read similar informative articles on confusable words here and here


Like this article? Republish it!
Knowledge should be open to all. We encourage our viewers to republish articles, online or in print. Our Creative Commons license allows you to do so for free. We only ask you to follow a few simple guidelines:
  • Attribution: Remember to attribute our authors. They spend a lot of time and effort in creating this content for you.
  • Editage Insights: Include an attribution to Editage Insights as the original source.
  • Consider a teaser: Yes, that’s what we call it…a teaser. You could include a few lines of this post and say “Read the whole article on Editage Insights”. Don’t forget to add the link to the article.
  • Re-using images: Re-publishing some of the images from our articles may need prior permission from or credit to the original image source.
  • Quick and easy embed code: The simplest way to share this article on your webpage would be to embed the code below.


Please copy the above code and embed it onto your website to republish.
Download free ebooks, guides and templates.
Editage Insights offers a wealth of free resources on academic research and publishing. Sign up and get complete access to a vibrant global community of 179k researchers.
By clicking 'Join Now', you agree to our Terms & Privacy Policy.
Having trouble registering/logging in? Contact us
Q & A

Have your own question?

Related Categories