Business Speak: Whenever when?

Language Nerd To The Rescue

Even before I became a writer, I was a huge language nerd and it’s gotten worse over the years. It’s hit especially hard since moving to Texas.

Each area of the country has its own way of speaking, its own dialect, and its own unique use of common words. But in business, using the correct words and phrases is critical, wherever you live.

Today, we’re going to look at one of my more recent grammar pet peeves — “whenever” versus “when.”

Why it bugs me

I first came across this issue on moving to Texas, but even more in the last few years. A friend was talking about a time “whenever” he went to the grocery store a few days before.

Excuse me? “Whenever you went?” I didn’t say anything to him at the time, because it wasn’t necessary, but then I started noticing others doing the same. I started thinking perhaps this was a Texas dialect mistake, but then I heard it in business meetings with people I would otherwise think are intelligent.

Using the incorrect word choice in conversation and in writing — especially when dealing with business — can have a big impact on how others see you and your company. Choosing wisely is critical.

What’s the difference?

Why isn’t this correct? Because of the difference in meaning between the two words.

“Whenever,” according to Webster’s Dictionary, has an unlimited timeframe. For instance, “whenever you want,” signifies at any future undetermined time.

“When” has a specific timeline, as in “when you come to my house.”

Using the word “whenever” as you talk about a specific action or timeframe just doesn’t make grammatical sense and it implies you really don’t know when something is going to happen. And it definitely doesn’t go in a sentence when you’re describing something that has already happened.

Use what you want — correctly

It’s one thing to use incorrect words by accident; it’s another when you use them because you don’t know the difference. For some, it’s a habit no one ever corrected them on; for others, it’s a cultural or regional thing.

When it comes down to it, how you speak and write says a lot about you as a person and as a professional. We don’t always use the correct words when we’re just chatting — goodness knows I’m not always the best at it — but especially when doing business, making sure you use the right words can mean the difference between your (prospective) client thinking you’re good at what you do and thinking you’re uneducated.



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Laurie Leiker

Laurie Leiker

I’m Managing Partner @ Search & Convert, as well an author, writer, editor, consumer advocate, & tech early adopter, with a decade spent as a radio/TV producer.