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I'm taking an English academic writing course. My teacher recommended using today as it is more accepted compared to nowadays. I asked her if this is accepted in American English (she's from US) or in general. She said in general. Then I asked her why it was recommended. Her reasoning was:

When you publish an article your audience will be the whole world and not everyone in this world is a native English speaker, so it is recommended to use simple English.

Is replacing nowadays by today really recommended? I'm looking for a source that can prove or disprove the above statement. I am a non-native English speaker myself, trying to learn English from different sources.

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Even if a non-native English speaker did not know what nowadays means, I think it would be quite easy for them to figure it out from the component morphemes. –  Peter Shor Oct 31 '11 at 11:58
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When today has the meaning of "at the present time" / "in this day and age", either can be used. But when today has the meaning of "this very day" you cannot use nowadays instead. –  Laure Oct 31 '11 at 13:13
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I agree that technical writing (or any writing that is intended to be widely read by non-native speakers) should be in simple English. So--instead of disputing "nowadays"--you could be looking for other examples in your writing where it could be done more simply. –  GEdgar Oct 31 '11 at 13:32

4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Nowadays and today are both perfectly acceptable. You could also say these days, in recent times and at present or presently. If your teacher prefers that you don't use nowadays I would follow her instructions just because there are so many alternatives and she is the one grading your paper.

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To me, nowadays doesn't seem formal enough to put in a paper. I would use it in conversation, or maybe a news article, but never in a formal paper. I'm not sure if that's just how I've been taught, however. –  Brendon Oct 31 '11 at 11:55
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According to the Economist style guide (British English), presently should not be used in this context as presently means "after a short time" - "currently" should be used instead. I would agree with the other suggestions though. I tend to agree with Brendon that "nowadays" doesn't seem formal enough for an academic paper. –  Matt Oct 31 '11 at 12:24
    
@ Matt: The usage of "presently" is much disputed and to most people I assume "presently" means "now". −−− learnersdictionary.com/search/presently −−− en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_English_words_with_disputed_usage –  Laure Oct 31 '11 at 13:14
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I wouldn't say nowadays is less formal than today. I just think that nowadays nowadays is not as widely used as today. An ngram shows a decline in the use of nowadays in the 30's and an increase in the use of today around the same period, and stable since. –  Laure Oct 31 '11 at 13:16
    
@Matt & Laure: "Presently" is one of those words that English teachers and other pedants say means one thing but most people use to mean something else. I'd avoid using it to mean "nowadays" in an English paper, but otherwise I routinely use it with that meaning. I suspect the average reader would pause on reading a usage with the English-teacher definition, like "I shall return your pencil presently", and would have to guess the meaning from the context. –  Jay Oct 31 '11 at 14:38

The word creates a sense of awkwardness. It detracts from the intent of the statement because the reader has to stop and mull the intention of the writer. In academic writing your job is to communicate quickly and effectively. Anything that detracts from that purpose should be rewritten. Do you see this used in the article you are responding to? If you do, how is it used? When? In most cases my students can not find this usage in articles. I then walk them through a revision process to see how to make a statement stronger and clarify the meaning.

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Based on my experiences editing academic papers and professional articles from both native and non-native speakers of English, the word "nowadays" is a signal that the writer is not a native English speaker. I see it most commonly used by Chinese speakers.

Both "nowadays" and "today" are acceptable. However, when editing, I generally remove any such term. If you're using the present tense, you imply "now."

For example: "Nowadays, people act as if they have more money than they really do." This sentence means and implies the same thing as "People act as if they have more money than they really do." Here, the word "nowadays" is redundant, resulting in loose and dull writing.

My recommendation: Rather than struggle with "nowadays" and "today," revise your sentences so that neither is needed.

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I'm not sure if I agree with your example. Adding 'Nowadays' conveys the additional meaning of some kind of contrast with the past. Of course, if this additional meaning isn't intended then I agree 100% that 'nowadays' is redundant. –  tinyd Jan 13 '12 at 13:31

I'd agree with Mark that, for this class, you should follow the teacher's direction if you hope to get good grades on your papers!

But long term, it's a tough question. "Nowadays" is not a very commonly used word any more. On the other hand, "today" is most often understood to me "in the current 24-hour period", so there could be times when using "today" to mean "the current era" could create an ambiguity. Usually the intent would be apparent from the context, but not necessarily. As I think about it, this is rather tricky. If someone said, "The stock market is falling today", I think most people would understand him to mean "in this 24-hour period". But if he said, "The economy is doing poorly today", people would understand him to mean "in the last few years".

I'd generally opt for "currently", "at the present time", "these days", etc.

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Not a very commonly used word?! Nonsense, I hear it all the time, nowadays. –  Jez Nov 1 '11 at 17:14
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Well, I don't hear it very often, and of course the standard of good English is what is used by MY friends and associates. :-) –  Jay Nov 2 '11 at 17:43
    
Do what teacher says just to get a good grade? Anymore, people have no backbone :p –  Eugene Seidel Apr 24 '12 at 13:59
    
@Eugene If a teacher or a boss says, "Do X", then assuming it's not illegal or immoral, sure, I'll do it to get along for the time being. I'm not going to make something the rule for my life just because a teacher I had 20 years ago said so. :-) –  Jay Apr 24 '12 at 14:12

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