Which Word Wednesday: Especially vs. Specially

By June 29, 2011 language No Comments

The trouble with being a word lover is that I can’t get away from it. Words are used to think, write, and speak, which gives me plenty of opportunities for improper usage or brain freeze. I log these glitches for future consideration, but at least half the time I forget about it . . . until the next time the same glitch occurs. Then I remember what I meant to look up, and I’m right back where I started.

Today’s Which Word Wednesday entry is one of those glitches. I know there is a difference between especially and specially, but I don’t know what that is. Especially is used more often, so when I hear it, I wonder if it has rudely nudged out specially or if it is in its proper place. Well, let’s get this glitch unglitched, looking first at the Oxford American Dictionary definitions:

especially :: adverb
used to single out one person, thing, or situation over all others

specially :: adverb
for a special purpose

Dave Dowling offers additional insight in The Wrong Word Dictionary with these two examples1:

The air quality in the Adirondack Mountains is especially fresh.

Those students were specially chosen for their artistic talents.

The air in the Adirondack Mountains is fresher than the air in other mountain ranges, so especially has a comparative function.

Certain students were chosen because of their artistic talents, so specially has a specificity function.

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What’s my WWW verdict? I’ll use especially when I am specially speaking about comparative elements. (At least I think that’s what I mean!)

What’s your verdict? Do you use especially as your all-purpose adverb? Do share in the comments.

Check out previous Which Word Wednesday verdicts here.

1. Dave Dowling, The Wrong Word Dictionary (Oak Park, IL: Marion Street Press, 2005), 98.

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