Confusing words

Confusing words: C

Continuing the series of confusing words… many people aren’t sure of the difference in meaning between continual and continuous or don’t realise that there is a difference.

  • A continual event is one that occurs repeatedly, over and over.
  • A continuous event goes on incessantly, non-stop.

If it rained continually throughout your holiday, you might think it rather bad luck. If it rained continuously throughout your holiday, that really would be rotten luck and probably a freak meteorological event.

The noise of vehicles on a busy road might be continual: one swoosh after another. On a motorway, vehicle noise is more likely to be continuous: a constant thrum.

Many readers won’t make the distinction, so you might want to use another word such as “recurring” for continual or “incessant” for continuous.

You can read about the difference between continual and continuous and whole lot more, in the Clifford & Co editorial style guide.