Saturday, May 13, 2006

Don't Make This Everyday Mistake Every Day

Two headlines from the same editor/writer:
Tuesday, June 7, 2005: "You Learn Something New Everyday." No, you don't. In fact, if it's new it cannot be "everyday."

Monday, April 24, 2006: "Here's a Combo You Don't See Everyday." Quite so, and with good reason.
Two more examples:
Thursday, February 23, 2006: "Here's a Byline Team You Don't See Everyday."

Friday, April 28, 2006: "It's Not Everyday."

So all of these headlines contain the word "everyday," and its use is wrong in every single case. Every one.

The offender is Kathryn Jean Lopez, an educated and intelligent woman who has, we are informed, "been praised for her 'editorial daring,'" and who "stands athwart history," in William F. Buckley, Jr.'s immortal words, at National Review and at National Review Online.

How can she be so wrong, then? Isn't "everyday" a word?

Why yes, it is.

There are two good -- and short -- treatments of this error. First, we can turn to The New Fowler's Modern English Usage, edited by R. W. Burchfield. His entry on "everyday" (found on page 270 of the 1996 paperback edition) is admirably succinct:
When used as an adj. (an everyday event, everyday clothes, etc. meaning 'commonplace, usual: suitable for or used on ordinary days', everyday is written as one word. In contexts where it means 'each day' (she went shopping almost every day) two words (every day are needed.
Patricia T. O'Connor turns her attention to "everyday" as well, in her delightful Woe Is I: The Grammarphobe's Guide to Better English in Plain English. In chapter 5, "Verbal Use," she includes a section, "One Word or Two?" which includes this entry:
everyday / every day. We mix them up daily (or every day). The single word, everyday, is an adjective. It describes a thing, so it can usually be found right in front of a noun: "I just love my everyday diamonds," said Magda. The time expression every day is two words: "That's why you wear them every day," said Zsa Zsa.
How to Avoid This Error:

Time for mnemonics:

If you mean "commonplace," or "usual," notice that each is one word, and the term you need is also one word: "everyday." Okay, but how do you remember the tip? Notice that "commonplace" is one word, but made up of two words -- and so is "everyday."

If your meaning is "daily," then remember either Burchfield's "each day" or O'Connor's "time expression," and there you are: two words.

(This error is not mentioned in the first edition of Fowler, and in the Second (edited by Sir Ernest Gowers), the word "everyday" is treated as "(adj.). One word." That's it. This would appear, then, to be an error of recent vintage. Ah, for those halcyon days before rap "music," the designated hitter, and "This isn't something you see everyday...")

(Cross-posted to The Anger of Compassion.)


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