The words “especially” and “specially” can give native speakers of English trouble. Yet the careful use of these words marks us as educated and knowledgeable speakers and writers of English who pay attention to the nuances of grammar and style. Both “especially” and “specially” are adverbs; they describe a noun, adjective, or another adverb. However, we use “specially” in the following manner: “The artist used a specially-designed frame to deliver the painting.” Many times “specially” is hyphenated and connects to the verb that follows. The word “especially” means “in particular”; it specifies a unique, special instance of whatever we are discussing. It is also used as an intensifier to increase the strength (intensify) of the adjective that follows, as in “especially good” or “especially bad.” For example, “Daddy did an especially good job in building my desk and chair.”
In the case of these two words, solutions are tricky because both words are sometimes used in place of one another. However, a careful speaker and writer makes the following distinctions.
Use “Especially” As an Intensifier, Meaning Very Much
An intensifier is a word that makes an idea stronger. For example, “very” is an intensifier. In the expression “very good,” the word “very” makes the “good” just a little better than it is without the “very.”
In the same manner, the word “especially” can intensify the adjective or adverb it comes before, as in “an especially good book.” If you can substitute the words “particularly” or “very” in the expression, then use “especially.” To use a common American expression, “especially” amps up the term following it. We use “especially” when “very” seems just a bit too dull, too prosaic. Here are some examples.
- Jill is an especially gifted dancer.
- Raymond wrote an especially poor book report.
Use “Especially” to Single Out, Meaning “Particularly” or Unique
We use “especially” to single out or show the uniqueness of one thing over another. Here are examples.
- Dad took me to Fenway Park especially to see Joe Mauer play the Red Sox.
- Vivian baked the cake especially for me.
Use “Specially” Infrequently and When Hyphenation Makes Sense
The word “specially” should not be used too often. It makes idiomatic sense to use it as an adverb, just before a verb. Many times, we can hyphenate the resulting expression.
- specially-designed house
- specially-made gown
- specially-cut flowers
- specially-grown mangoes
- specially-bought materials
Just remember the following sentence:
- Karen bought a specially-made gown especially for her sister’s wedding.