along with their adjective forms continual and continuous, are
often used interchangeably in speech and writing, but style guides urge writers
to practice discernment when using continually and continuously.
In formal contexts, continually should be used to mean “very often; at
regular or frequent intervals,” and continuously to mean “unceasingly;
constantly; without interruption.” To put this into context: reading grammar
blogs continually, or at regular intervals, throughout the day might be a fun
way to boost your knowledge about the English language, but doing so
continuously, or without stopping, for the duration of a day would likely
result in fatigue, hunger, and—dare we say—boredom.
rules of good usage outlined above, it is not uncommon for continually
to be listed as a synonym for continuously in dictionaries, or for them
to be used interchangeably in the wild. Both words come from the Latin verb continēre
meaning “to hold together; retain,” and when continually entered English
it meant what continuously does now.
One way to
remember the difference is to use the letters in each term as a hint: continuously
has an uninterrupted chain of Os and Us toward the end, reminding
us that it means“uninterruptedly” or “unceasingly.” Continually,
is interrupted by two jutting Ls, reminding us this term is associated
with breaks, interruptions, and intervals. Knowing the difference between these
terms will give you an advantage in formal settings, but don’t fret if you
can’t keep the two words distinct all the time. After all, style guides are continually
published, but the language is continuously changing.