Writer’s Toolbox

Ask The Writer

Your most pressing and perplexing questions about writing answered here by Gotham teacher Brandi Reissenweber.

What is the difference between valuable and invaluable?

Something that’s valuable is worth a lot of money and would net a good price. Something that’s invaluable, on the other hand, is valuable beyond estimation. It’s priceless. The distinction may be easy to make when discussing things: Betsy’s diamond bracelet is valuable. The moon is invaluable.

These adjectives can also apply to people, traits, actions, relationships and more. Since we don’t typically appraise these for monetary value, this is where usage can get tricky. Use invaluable when you want to step it up a notch. A valuable employee is one who has desirable qualities and consistently makes positive contributions. But a company would truly suffer at the loss of an invaluable employee. Valuable advice might help a college graduate make good choices about his future. Invaluable advice would help direct him to the job that brings him personal and financial satisfaction for the rest of his life.