One for the history books

Monday is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the federal holiday that honors the civil rights leader every year around his birthday. King would have turned 95 this year.

When describing King’s legacy, would you say he is a historic or historical figure? Both descriptions are, of course, correct, but there’s one that’s a bit more apt.

Although “historic” and “historical” are often ​used interchangeably​, “historic” is generally reserved for things that are particularly notable. “Historical,” meanwhile, can refer to any past event. Therefore, we would describe King as a historic figure.

"Historic" and "historical" have different meanings. "Historic" refers to significant events or periods: "In a historic first, the country elected a woman as president." "Historical," meanwhile, is used to refer to any event in the past: "It was important to her that the event was framed in the appropriate historical context. "Use "a" instead of "an" for both words: "It was a historic moment."

And don’t forget to drop the “n” before both words: It’s “a historic,” not “an historic.”

Since commonly confused words such as “historic” and “historical” have historically been a problem for writers, Stylebot makes it easy for you to brush up on their differences.

Lay or lie? Affect or effect? If you need reminders about how to use these words, you're not alone! It happens to the best of us, and I'm here to help. Below you can learn more about common writing mistakes. Or, you can ask me something specific.

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