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September 24, 2019


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Cathy Inglis Sondergard

Interesting. On my first pass through this, I came to the realization that I would never write the word reoccur, but I definitely say it when speaking. And, the word I choose when speaking follows the rule as you initially present. I had no idea I was doing this.

Maria Soininen

Thanks for an interesting blog post.

I wonder if one of the reasons why reoccur seems to be on the wane is that while there are plenty of terms with recur, particularly in finance, I can't think of any terms with reoccur. Please post below if you know of any, and particularly if you use it.

Reoccur is simply a more complicated way of saying something happened again, and there are probably few situations that call for the more complicated expression when speaking. Even in slightly more formal writing, I'd be more likely to use "Notify us as soon as possible if the problem occurs again", rather than "...reoccurs".

Would it be completely wrong to say "I was sorry to learn that your symptoms have returned?"

Business Writing Blog

Hi Cathy,

I'm glad you had a helpful realization. Thanks for taking the time to comment.


Business Writing Blog

Hi Maria,

It is perfectly fine to say or write "I was sorry to learn that your symptoms have returned."

You asked whether I would use "reoccur," and I would. For example, I might write something like "Let me know if the problem reoccurs." It's shorter than "happens again." But you're justified in thinking that "reoccurs" feels more formal than "happens again." It's a matter of tone.

Thanks for thinking about this topic with me.


Tamara DeBose

Thank you for this!

Colleen Price

Thank you for another good post, Lynn. I appreciate your column. I wanted to mention that the Merriam-Webster's Collegiate and Unabridged (via paid online subscription) both include the word "reoccur." M-W Collegiate has the first definition as "to occur again : to happen another time : recur," while M-W Unabridged simply says, "to occur again." I wonder why the 11th edition (I assume hard copy?) doesn't show it then.

Anita Roberts

Thank you for another interesting post, Lynn. I was always bothered by reoccur when I saw it but I never realized why. Now I understand the distinction. With so many differing resources around setting inconsistent rules it's hard to say with authority what is "correct" but I will be adding this distinction to our internal style guide.

Randy D.

Thank you for the information and the different reference sources. Wouldn't the entry from "The Gregg Reference Manual" be considered a pronunciation, rather than punctuation, tip? Thanks again!

Business Writing Blog

Randy, indeed! Thanks for the correction, which I have applied.


Business Writing Blog

Colleen, thank you very much for that information. I will add it to my post.

I do not know why my hardcover "M-W Collegiate Dictionary 11th Edition" does not include "reoccur."


Business Writing Blog

Hi Anita,

I am delighted to know that you have an internal style guide. Good work!



Wouldn't you write "Neither Merriam... NOR The American... ?" Interesting that Canadians would use the words interchangeably. My old Collins Dictionary & Thesaurus (U.K.) makes no mention of reoccur.

Business Writing Blog

Marisa, of course you are right! That's what I get for changing the phrasing at the last minute. Consider it fixed.

Thank you.


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