What Does “Daily Basis” Mean?

My 16-year-old daughter told me that she receives loving text messages from her boyfriend on a daily basis. I asked her whether this included weekends and national holidays, so she looked at me and rolled her eyes. While she viewed my question as silly, what do we really mean by “on a daily basis”? 

Daily basis means something that happens, or is done, every day. This could mean every working day, and increasingly we shorten the phrase to the single word daily. In this case there is no difference between daily basis and daily.

In this article, we will look at some of the sometimes subtle differences in the meaning of words and phrases that, initially, seem to mean the same thing. We will discuss these differences in the context of their impact on writing style.

What’s the Difference Between Daily Basis and Every Day?

Ultimately, the phrase “daily basis” is the same as “every day,” which is the same as “daily.” So, why does English have so many different words and phrases that mean the same thing?

The answer lies in this thing called “style.” There are many common expressions in English which may add to the flavor of our personal writing style, such as “Most definitely.”

Writing style is more than just good writing. Many well-known authors have applied their minds to defining what constitutes good writing.

Some of these writers include Stephen King in his On Writing (2000) and Bill Bryson in The Mother Tongue: English And How It Got That Way (1990), among others.

The seminal book on writing style is probably Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. Many of its pithy words of advice have become almost gospel to generations of writers and journalists, advice such as “Write with nouns and verbs” and “Omit needless words.”

It is this second bit of advice that writers have taken to mean that a phrase such as “on a daily basis” is needlessly wordy.

Some writers would label it as a “stuffy and pompous” form of writing. Instead of “on a daily basis,” you could just as effectively write “every day” or “daily.”

William Safire, a noted New York Times columnist who wrote the tongue-in-cheek column “On Language” for many years, was less subtle in one of his Fumblerules (1990).

Here, he said, “If you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing” (source).

In other words, say what you want to say in as few words as it takes to get your meaning across.

Looking for a moment at the issue from a slightly more technical point of view, “daily” is an adverb. An adverb is the category of words that modifies a verb, or, in other words, tells us something about when the action is taking place. 

“On a daily basis” is an adverbial phrase — a group of words that behaves as a unit in a sentence and, in this case, tells us something about when the action is taking place; in other words, the phrase behaves exactly as the adverb behaves (source).

“Daily” can also function as an adjective — e.g., a daily newspaper — and as a noun — e.g., “We subscribe to the dailies.”

It is usually possible to find a one-word adverb to replace an adverbial phrase, so:

  • On a day-to-day basis → daily
  • On a monthly basis → monthly
  • On a yearly basis → annually

In all of the above cases, the meaning is the same. So, why does English continue to use words and phrases that duplicate each other? Part of good writing is to vary the pace and rhythm of the writing.

Using different words and phrases helps to achieve this purpose.

So, instead of writing, “The cows are milked daily, and the milk churns are collected daily,” we might vary the style by saying, “We milk the cows daily, and we collect the milk churns on a daily basis.”

Although we repeated the word “daily,” it is now in the adverbial phrase rather than a repeat of the same adverb.

Author of the authoritative 20th-century style manual Modern English Usage, Henry Fowler, frowned upon the practice of naming things with different words, calling it “elegant variation.” 

But there are times — when a noun is repeated in quick succession, for example — that the substitution of a synonym makes for less clunky — not to mention less confusing — prose. For example:

A truck came hurtling around the corner. The vehicle nearly ran over the child.

Repeating the word “truck” at the start of each sentence sounds, well, clunky.

There are limits to the use of such variation, of course, and there is a risk of sinking into “journalese” — the pseudo-rule laid down by some old-style newspaper editors that you should never use a word more than once on one page.

This leads to the tiresome practice of substituting, for example, the word “moniker” for “name” and “white stuff” for “snow”. As a general rule, the wording should not be varied when a writer compares or contrasts two things. For example:

Sharks inhabit the coastal waters of South Africa, but Great Whites are known to follow the sardine shoals up the east coast.

In this sentence, is it only Great Whites that follow the sardines, or all sharks? We don’t know. It would be better to say:

Sharks, including Great Whites, inhabit the coastal waters of South Africa and follow the sardine shoals up the east coast. 

However, it would be best if you varied the wording when referring to something multiple times, in quick succession, and repeating the name would be monotonous or would misleadingly suggest that some new character entered the story. For example:

A trip to Dubai is incomplete without a visit to the Burj Khalifa. This iconic structure is currently the tallest building in the world. 

In this sentence, the words “trip” and “visit” are interchangeable, as are the phrases “Burj Khalifa,” “iconic structure,” and “tallest building in the world.”

But instead of repeating the same phrase, we are providing variety and additional information that maintains the reader’s interest.

In the same way, English provides us with a wide variety of synonyms — words of similar meaning — that we may use to provide our writing, and speaking, with color and variety. Let’s look at some examples in the next section.

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Image by Roman Bozhko via Unsplash

What Is Another Word for Daily Basis?

Notice that we said that synonyms are words of similar but not the same meaning. Yet we also said earlier that the words and phrases “daily,” “every day,” “on a daily basis,” and “on a day-to-day basis” all mean the same thing. 

Much of the meaning depends on the context in which we use the word or phrase. So, the following all mean the same (source):

  • I exercise daily / every day / on a daily basis

But if I were to say, “I exercise on a day-to-day basis,” I may be hinting that I decide from one day to the next whether or not I will exercise. Similarly, the following synonyms for “daily basis” have slightly different connotations or suggestions of different meanings:

  • I exercise regularly — i.e., according to some recurring pattern, but not necessarily daily.
  • I exercise routinely — I have a set procedure that I stick to.
  • I often exercise — frequently, but not on a fixed schedule.
  • I frequently exercise — often, but not every day, perhaps.
  • I seldom exercise — only when I feel like it, which isn’t often.

Notice that many of these expressions refer back to each other simply because they are synonyms. In this sense, none of them is as explicit as “daily basis,” which refers to a rather specific time frame of “every day.” 

Nevertheless, in a less explicit sense, exercise on a “daily basis” may also be described as regular, routine, often, and frequent (source). 

Examples of How to Use Daily Basis

Is there a subtle difference between “daily” and “daily basis”? Let’s look at some more examples. If I say, “I exercise by running three miles daily” is this any different in meaning to my saying, “I exercise by running three miles on a daily basis”?

We would probably find general agreement that the second sentence sounds a little more formal and might be more suited to a statement in my resumé.

We might also acknowledge that we would probably say, “I exercise by running three miles every day” in spoken language.

The important lesson is to tailor your writing to the audience you intend.

While “daily basis” is a commonly used expression along with its other variants — hourly, weekly, and monthly basis, etc. — we should always be mindful of the generally good advice to use words efficiently to get our meaning across.

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Image by NORTHFOLK via Unsplash

Final Thoughts

Single-word adverbs and adjectives like “daily” and their use in adverbial phrases like “on a daily basis” add richness and color to your writing and speaking.

By reading published writers and practicing your writing regularly, you will gain the confidence to know how and when to use either expression. 

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