Simultaneous and Simultaneously
The following sentence on a professional writing site caught my attention:
Simultaneous people (e.g. the editor and writer) can work on the same document at the same time, ensuring changes aren’t lost in old, misplaced drafts.
I have seen nonprofessional writers use the phrase “simultaneous people” in the context of computer use, as in this exchange between a customer and a service provider:
Question: How many simultaneous people can be logged in on my account?
Answer: Only one person can be logged in on a computer per account. If you log in on a computer and are already logged in elsewhere, you will be logged out of your older session. For other devices such as Roku, iPad and iPhone, 3 people can be logged in simultaneously.
Note the use of the adverb simultaneously in the answer to describe a situation that includes multiple users.
The principal definition of the adjective simultaneous is “existing, happening, occurring, operating, etc., at the same time.”
I suppose that in one sense we are all “simultaneous people” because we are all living our lives on the planet at the same time. In most contexts, however, simultaneous usually applies to things or events, whereas people do things simultaneously.
Here are some conventional uses of the adjective:
In 1964, roughly nine of ten Japanese watched the final match and felt a collective joy in the moment of victory. This simultaneous emotion created a strong feeling of community among them.
In 10 years there was a fall in the marriage-rate and a simultaneous fall in the value of exported British produce.
I’d say the scratch was simultaneous with the punch.
Before the Rebels threw a monkey wrench into the Empire’s plans, how many simultaneous Death Stars were envisioned by the Empire?
An event at which a chess master plays games with multiple players at the same time is called a “simultaneous exhibition” or “simultaneous display.”
A “simultaneous equation” is “an equation involving two or more unknowns that are to have the same values in each equation.”
In the context of oral translation, simultaneous is used to describe human beings who translate from one language into another as a speaker utters it.
One of the key skills of the simultaneous interpreter is decisiveness.
Simultaneous interpreters must have not only complete mastery of the languages, but also of their cultures.
A Google search suggests that even in this profession, it’s more common to refer to the act of translation rather than to the translator as being simultaneous:
simultaneous interpretation: 434,000 results
simultaneous interpreting: 361,000 results
simultaneous interpreters: 161,000
Note: The phrase “simultaneous people tracking” racks up about 19,000,000 results when searched without quotation marks. A phrase associated with robotics, it doesn’t refer to “spontaneous people,” but to “spontaneous people-tracking.” The phrase has to do with the fact that a robot must be programmed to avoid human obstacles as it moves about.
Here is a suggested revision of the sentence that prompted this post:
Editors and writers can work on the same document simultaneously, ensuring that changes aren’t lost in old, misplaced drafts.
Browse all articles on the Misused Words category or check the recommended content for you below:
Improve your English in 5 minutes a day! Subscribe to our Writing Tips and Exercises via Email
- You will improve your English in only 5 minutes per day, guaranteed!
- Subscribers get access to our archives with 800+ interactive exercises!
- You'll also get three bonus ebooks completely free!