“Everyday” vs. “Every Day”

Here’s an everyday grammar boo-boo we find every day on social media and wall plaques.

It’s easy to forget that “everyday” (one word) is a compound adjective that means “ordinary,” “typical,” “usual,” or “garden variety,” as in “Let me slip on my everyday shoes.”

“Every day,” (two words) on the other hand, means, well, “every day,” as in, “Her husband visits her at the lake every day,” or, “We walk the dog every day.”

The vast majority of the time, we mean “every day,” but every day I see it written incorrectly; it has become an everyday thing on social media and wall plaques. Δ

© Copyright 2017 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved.

 

Poetic License? But Why?

Bad grammar ruined this popular Christian song (for me).

Standard English took a blow below the belt with the rise of rock ’n’ roll music, and it was only a matter of time before the assault on the mother tongue would be sanctified by Christian artists writing Jesus Music.

I was no grammar snob as a teenager and young adult, and neither was I a grammar slob. But I lived for the rock ’n’ roll music of Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos, and other pioneers of the Christian rock genre. I slapped on my Pioneer stereo headphones, cranked up the volume, and blew out my eardrums on a regular basis to songs like Continue reading “Poetic License? But Why?”

Lay or Lie?

Let’s sort out the confusion.

Lying Dog
Spot is lying in his favorite place.

One of the most widely committed grammar errors is using lay for lie. This confusion is nearly universal. Writers and speakers everywhere get it wrong. All the time. Popular songs through the years haven’t helped, either. Think of Bob Dylan’s “Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed,” and Eric Clapton’s “Lay down, Sally, and rest you in my arms.” And let’s not forget Simon and Garfunkel’s huge hit “The Boxer,” which laments of “running scared, laying low, seeking out the poorer quarters where the ragged people go.” Unfortunately, the lays in these examples are all wrong. Now we have an entire generation or two of adults who think that “lay” or “laid” are the only correct forms of the verb, and that “lie” refers to the claims of presidential candidates and Olympic swimmers.

Let’s see if we can sort out the confusion. Continue reading “Lay or Lie?”

The Team Romp?

How to write about collective nouns.

Olympic_rings_without_rims.svgA front-page headline in the local newspaper this morning reads, “U.S. Men’s Basketball Team Romp Past China.” Kudos to the U.S. men’s team for romping away in your first game of these Olympics, steamrolling easily over the Chinese team 119-62. But thanks, local newspaper, for reminding us that subject-verb agreement in number is not always so easy.

Nouns that denote an aggregate of individuals or things are called collective nouns and are grammatically singular, which means they take the singular form of the verb. Common examples include flock, herd, group, family, and team. We would say, “The flock of geese is flying overhead”; “The green group challenges the blue group to a sales contest”; “The family that prays together stays together”; and “The U.S. Team Romps Past China.”

There are exceptions and nuances to this rule. For example, when the group is spoken of as a collection of individuals, the plural form of the verb is used, as in, “When the basketball team plays next, I hope they win.”In the first part of the sentence, team is a collective noun, therefore we use the singular form plays. In the second part, the emphasis is placed on the individuals, and therefore we hope they (the individuals who comprise the team) win (the plural form of the verb). This sounds complicated, but it’s something we all get correct without thinking about it.

Suffice it to say that collective nouns are singular nouns and, as such, take singular forms of the verb.

And may the best team win.

© 2016 by Dean Christensen. All rights reserved.

 

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The Art of Writing

This is why we pay attention to grammar, punctuation, syntax, and usage.

 

Graphic - Grammar“If readers find that they must work too hard to understand you, if they are confused by what you write, they can and will stop reading. The art of writing is in large part the art of keeping your readers’ goodwill while you teach them what you want them to learn.”

—Sylvan Barnett, et al., A Short Guide to College Writing (New York: Penquin Academics, 2002), 45.

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Between You and I, We’ve Got a Problem!

Do you make this common grammar error?

Got a Problem
Subject-object confusion.

Today I want to talk about me. No, I don’t mean me, Dean, I mean the objective pronoun me versus the nominative pronoun I. One of the most common errors in speech and writing is to use I where me should be. 

Here’s the general rule in the simplest terms: Use I as the subject of a sentence or clause and me as the object of a sentence or clause.

Let me give some examples of the incorrect use of these pronouns:

  • “People gave my wife and I four toasters for wedding presents.” (incorrect)
  • “One of the best things to happen to Gary and I is that we became best friends.” (incorrect)

Here’s why both are incorrect: the pronoun I is virtually always used in the nominative case, as the subject of a sentence or clause, not the object. The objective pronoun is me. Replace I with me in both sentences: 

  • “People gave my wife and me four toasters for wedding presents.” (correct)
  • “One of the best things to happen to Gary and me is that we became best friends.” (correct)

Here’s an easy test to use when you’re not sure:  Continue reading “Between You and I, We’ve Got a Problem!”