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ST Boots Ara 48523 Braun 12 Munchen Gore Suede Womens Tex 05/14/01: The Prefixes “Bi” and “Semi”

If you receive a paycheck on the fifteenth and thirtieth of each month, are you paid bimonthly or semimonthly?

If a newspaper is published every two weeks, it is a biweekly or a bimonthly publication?

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The answer is not simple.

If we check Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary (10th edition) for definitions of each prefix, we find that although semi always means “half,” the prefix bi can mean either “every two” or “twice.” Thus, bimonthly can mean either “every two months” or “twice a month.”

Webster’s warns us that when using the prefix biWolf Men Jordan Nike Jordan Grey Shoe Super Basketball 11 Men's Black 23 US Infrared Fly 5 zwwApaq6, we should give the reader clues about which meaning we intend. And when you are the reader, you should make sure you know which meaning the writer intends. Before you decide to pay $19.95 for a bimonthly magazine, read the fine print to find out if you will receive six issues a year or twenty-four.

When we mean “twice” (as in “twice a week” or “twice a month”), we can avoid ambiguity by using the prefix Munchen Suede 12 Gore 48523 Ara Boots Braun Tex Womens ST semi (as in semiweekly for “twice a week” and Womens Tex 12 Braun Suede Munchen 48523 ST Boots Gore Ara semimonthly for “twice a month”) even though technically we could use the prefix bi.

Two final notes:

(1) We have a special word--biennial--that means “occurring every two years.” The word biannual has only one meaning: “occurring twice a year.” Womens 12 Boots Tex Munchen 48523 Suede ST Ara Gore Braun Biannual is thus interchangeable with Munchen 48523 Boots Tex Gore Womens 12 Ara ST Suede Braun semiannual, although biannual is less preferable if we wish to avoid any chance of misreading by folks who are not thoroughly familiar with these definitions.

(2) Never use a hyphen with either of these prefixes unless the root word begins with the letter i, as in semi-independent, semi-invalid, and semi-infinite.

TEST YOURSELF: Which prefix--bi or semi--would be the better (that is, the less ambiguous) choice for a word to describe each situation below? (The answers are directly beneath these phrases.)

1. occurring twice a week

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2. occurring every two months

3. occurring every two years

4. occurring twice a year

5. occurring twice a month

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ANSWERS:

1. semiweekly (Biweekly is acceptable but potentially ambiguous.)

2. bimonthly (Be careful to provide context clues so the reader does not think you mean “twice a month.”)

3. biennial

4. semiannual (Biannual is also correct but potentially ambiguous to readers unfamiliar with the difference between biennial and biannual.)

5. semimonthly (Bimonthly is acceptable but potentially ambiguous.)

Copyright 2001 Get It Write


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