It sounds pleasant, we read and listen to it in the newspapersprint, electronic media- radio and television, every other day, the phrase “Presently”, to the extent that we are becoming too familiar with it that to some of us, especially the English purists and masters, it conveys nothing new except sounding repetitive. The adverb “Presently” has lost its flavour, though wrongly used to imply the present time or now but means the exact opposite of what we want to express as writers, journalists and reporters.
Yet, others fancy the statement “at the present time” and, or “at the present” which we have been told suffers the same fate like “Presently.” Avoid them as much as you can and go for something more acceptable and current. Enough of stale, boring and in most cases, wrongly used expressions. They are classified as clichés and often times a misrepresentation of the British English, we are used to and should firmly hold onto. A glaring example of misused statement, whether in the written or spoken English, is the adverb “Presently” so often engaged by the journalists and reporters that it has become a normal thing in the lexicon of the average user of the language.
But, as we observed earlier, it is the exact opposite of the message one intend to pass on to the listening and reading audience. The phrase “Presently,” according to Chambers 21st Century Dictionary, refers to something in the past not the present, soon or shortly to come. The US is said to tolerate the “presently” expression and not the British English we adopt as a common lingua franca. We have sounded it loud and clear that Nigeria, like other Commonwealth countries that shared the same history of colonialism with the British Empire of old were compelled to adopt the Standard English in every of their engagements. So, till date nothing has changed. Even what people regard as American English encroachment into the Standard British English has not in any way bend the rules except in few instances.
The Nigerian media, for example, have kept faith with the British English. They remain a shining example and model for others to copy. Can we find a substitute for the over used statement, wrongly though, “Presently?” Yes, there are quite a number of them, if one can painstakingly go after them. As we normally say, no word or expression is cast gold, that is to say, they evolve with time and space and make way for new ones to take their place soon as they have accomplished their work. If allowed too much time to play around, they become clichés or hackneyed word or phrase that no longer have our sympathy or command our respect.
The most suitable replacement for the overflogged statements “Presently,” “At the present time,” if you like, is the phrase “currently” or “at present” which is direct and functional English. Anything else is a misnomer. Stay with the two expressions “Currently” and “At present.” Better still, you can explore and expand your vocabulary by reading as many good books you can lay your hands on.
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