From Vocabulary in Guide part of ABC of Plain Words by Sir E Gowers (1951)

This word should only be used when a choice may be made. It has recently been driving out other more suitable words, and constantly appears where there is no choice, and the proper word is some such adjective as other, fresh, different, revised, substitute. Possibly this strange popularity comes from the attractive Jingle " alternative accommodation ", sanctioned by the legislature, in the sense of accommodation other than that already occupied. Mistrust alternative deeply: always ask yourself whether there is in fact a choice, and if there is not, select some other word.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that it was perfectly proper for the Minister to comment on the findings of an inquiry, and to take an alternative view. (Different.)

I thank you for your letter and note that you have made alternative arrangements respecting the pulleys. (Other.)

It is noted that you are seeking alternative employment. (That you are looking for other work.)

The Minister regrets that he will not be able to hold the Conference arranged for the 15th March. Members will be informed as soon as alternative arrangements have been made. (Fresh.)

To provide alternative storage in place of that destroyed by enemy action. ('Alternative' is here meaningless and should be omitted.)

It is pedantry to say that, because of its derivation, alternative must not be used where the choices are more than two. See Changes In The Meaning Of Words.

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