I was reading this sentence,
During high school I was very talented student especially in math.
Automatically, I mentally corrected it as,
During high school, I was a talented student, particularly in mathematics.
Then I paused, thinking why I replaced that especially with particularly. Was it because the original writing mentioned "M.Sc. program" and "PhD"? It seemed like I was trying to make the text sound a little more formal. But do I really have any ground here? I looked up some online dictionaries and found that not only they are synonyms, their definitions are also almost identical.
For example, according to Google, particularly is defined as "to a higher degree than is usual or average," while especially is defined as "to a great extent; very much."
Or, in another definition, particularly is defined as "used to single out a subject to which a statement is especially applicable," while especially as "used to single out one person, thing, or situation over all others."
Does particularly really convey more formality than especially as I thought?