Today's factoid to make you look annoyingly intellectual and hopelessly smart involves the confusion over "every day" and "everyday." No big deal? If you watch TV commercials or pay attention to the signs around town, you'll notice that about half of them have it wrong. Which half? It depends on what the ad is trying to say. When you know the secret to this concept, you'll start seeing errors leering at you from everywhere and will suddenly begin feeling&emdash;well, superior. This knowledge brings instant gratification. Here's how to do it:

 

"Everyday"

This word can never be used without a noun following it. It can't stand alone as in "This happens everyday."

(Recall that a noun is the name of something&emdash;a person, place, thing, or idea such as "Arnold," "fireman," "Seattle," "beach," "Ragu," "earmuffs," "truth," "beauty.")

Another way of saying this is that "everyday" is an adjective (a word that goes in front of a noun).

Examples: an everyday chore (noun = "chore"), some everyday shoes (noun = "shoes"), common everyday worries (noun = "worried"), an everyday hairstyle (noun = "hairstyle")

 

"Every day"

When no noun follows, use this two-word form. It must stand alone as in "This happens every day."

A trick you can use is testing if a word will fit between "every" and "day" such as "every single day" or "every other day" or "every rainy day."

Examples: "This bakery is open every [single] day"; "We have low-low prices every [winter] day"; "PERFECTION CLEANERS: Drop your pants here every [sweltering] day."

 

Self-test

The concept is actually pretty simple when you know the secret, isn't it? Here are a few sentences to privately test how successfully you've inserted this factoid. Answers and encouragement appear on www.KathyAlba.com (When you get there, click on "Factoidinsertionemia"). Are the following sentences right or wrong?

1. Grocery sign: "We sell smelly fish everyday."

2. Carpet outlet commercial: "Our purple remnants are on sale everyday!"

3. "Bank with us everyday of the week."

4. "When I see him everyday, he appears wired."

5. "Her normal everyday stress level is over the top."

6. Sign on a coffee shop's door: "Open everyday"

7. "That mutt watches TV every day while scratching his every day fleas."

8. "Everyday last week that baboon banged his head on the bongos."

9. "If I remind you everyday, will you remember my birthday?"

10. "If I send you an everyday reminder, will you show up at my door with a cake and some candles?"

 

Factoid Answers

Remember: to use "everyday," you need a noun following it. These nouns will be underlined in the appropriate places.

1. WRONG! We sell smelly fish every day.

2. WRONG! Our purple remnants are on sale every day!

3. WRONG! Bank with us every day of the week.

4. WRONG! When I see him every day, he appears wired.

5. RIGHT! Her normal everyday stress level is over the top.

6. WRONG! Open every day

7. RIGHT! That mutt watches TV every day while scratching his everyday fleas.

8. WRONG! Every day last week that baboon banged his head on the bongos.

9. WRONG! If I remind you every day, will you remember my birthday?

10. RIGHT! If I send you an everyday reminder, will you show up at my door with a cake and some candles?

 


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Kathy Alba, Ph.D. is author of Speaking and Writing Well: Empowering Yourself with "Proper" English, Your Dynamite Guide to Conquering the World.