Make Your Editor Cry: Formerly vs. Formally

Make Your Editor Cry: Formerly vs. Formally

Use the adverb formerly to describe something that happened earlier. A history teacher might explain that the city of Istanbul was formerly known as Constantinople. Former is at the root of formerly, referring to something that occurred earlier. If you changed your name, you’d be referred to as formerly known as whatever-your-name-used-to-be.

Formally describes something done according to an established custom or form, like dressing formally for dinner with the President, as people have always done. At the root of formally is formal, an adjective that describes something as following custom, forms, regulations, or ceremonies. You might speak formally during your speech, but chat casually with everyone after.

Remember where these two words came from and you’ll keep them straight: formerly former, and formally formal.

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