Word Choice: Serial vs. Cereal
  • 2-minute read
  • 11th August 2021

Word Choice: Serial vs. Cereal

‘Serial’ and ‘cereal’ are homophones: i.e. words that sound the same but differ in meaning and spelling. If you want to find out how to use these words correctly in your writing, have a look at our helpful guide below.

Serial (Relating to a Sequence)

‘Serial’ can be an adjective or a noun, but it is always related to something being in a sequence. As an adjective, it means ‘arranged sequentially’. A ‘serial number’, for instance, is so called because it is made up of a long string of sequential numbers:

What is the serial number for this product?

But we can also use ‘serial’ for something that is published in a series of parts:

The serial drama will be on the radio this afternoon.

Or for a person who repeatedly commits the same crime:

There are currently three serial arsonists under investigation.

As a noun, meanwhile, ‘serial’ typically refers to a piece of media, such as a novel, television series or radio broadcast, that is published in regular installments:

Downton Abbey is my favourite television serial.

A new ten-part serial starts this evening.

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In all cases, though, if you’re referring to something that involves a sequence or series, the correct spelling to use will be ‘serial’.

Cereal (A Grain or Breakfast Food)

‘Cereal’ refers to either a plant of the grass family that produces grain, such as wheat, oats or rice, or a breakfast food made from this crop:

Two types of cereal are cultivated on this land: maize and barley.

Which cereal would you like for breakfast – muesli or granola?

This word is always a noun and always spelled with a ‘c’ at the start.

A bowl of breakfast cereal.

Summary: Serial or Cereal?

These two words sound the same, but they have different meanings.

  • Serial can be an adjective or a noun and always relates to a sequence.
  • Cereal is a noun that refers to a grain or a breakfast food.

If you want an easy way of remembering the different spellings here, think of the ‘s’ that links ‘serial’ and ‘sequence’, and the ‘c’ in ‘cereal’ and ‘crop’.

We hope this post has helped you with the spelling of ‘serial’ and ‘cereal’. If you want to be sure your writing is error free, though, why not get 500 words checked for free? Upload a trial document for proofreading today and find out more.

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