When recently is not recent and currently is not current

In my editing work, “recently” and “currently” appear in much of the material I read, particularly in literature reviews. But the studies referred to are several years or even decades old and no longer recent or current at all, particularly as research methods are ever-changing and improving.

It is tempting to use recently and currently to avoid being specific about dates, and thus keep interpretation open and avoid being wrong. The risk is appearing vague and out-of-date, and confusing to readers.

  • Does “currently…” mean today, this week, this month, this calendar year, this financial year or this term of government?
  • Does “recently…” mean this century or last century?
  • Does “in recent decades…” mean the last two decades or the last three or four?

Recent and current are only useful for readers if is very clear what timeframe is being referred to. Context is important. Recently in geological time is very different from recently in the daily news cycle. Both the date the writer is writing and the date the reader is likely to be reading need to be clear and known. Will “currently” written at the beginning of a PhD still be current 4 years later when examined?

Think about what you want the reader to know and use a more specific time indicator than recently or currently wherever possible.

To help decide when recently is recent and currently is current, please contact me on rhdaniels@bigpond.com

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