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?

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    By the way, a common mistake among learners is using the word *especial when they should be using the far more common special. (It's not terribly relevant here, but I thought I'd mention it anyway :-) – snailplane Jan 24 '14 at 23:39

I believe that in this context, the two words are completely interchangeable with no change in meaning or register.

I can't actually think of a context where one would be preferred over the other, but I'm willing to be proven wrong on that.

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For a different situation I believe that the two words have a nuance to them.

Consider the following two statements:

  1. I like sushi, particularly salmon

  2. I like sushi, especially salmon

Although the person prefers salmon over other types in both examples, in the second statement the person expresses this stronger than in the first.

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    You are right! They express different dimensions while targeting the preference. Particularly is emphasising the salmon's specific qualities as the main difference of interest - the like is more accurate. Especially is emphasising the subject's higher level of feeling for the choice - the like is more emotional. Great examples. – scipilot Oct 18 '16 at 0:04

I would simply say that it sounds, to me, more sophisticated to say particularly. Though the two words, particularly and especially seem to be synonymous.

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I believe 'particularly' is used to denote ONE person, thing, or situation...and 'especially'...to denote ONE or MORE THAN ONE. I have no reference for this. I haven't heard 'particular' for denoting more than one.

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    Please consider adding some context and references. – AIQ Oct 19 '19 at 9:29

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