Then, Than, and Admitting Mistakes.

The last Grammar Giggles had a glaring error in it. I knew when I started this gig that my audience was going to be one of the toughest out there, but decided to go for it anyway. The people who follow me have been much more than kind when I do make a mistake (yeah, it happens). One of my friends sent me a very nice email with a great graphic to ask me if she was correct and I was wrong, I’m going to use her “infographic” as my blog post this week. In the Grammar Giggles, it said that something “was easier then trying to explain.” “Then” should have been “than.” I have lots of things I can blame it on, but it was wrong and I knew better. Thanks to Stephanie for being so nice about my error and giving me a great example for a topic for this week.

“Then” has an element of time.

  • He ate dinner and then decided on dessert. (After dinner the next thing in time that happened was deciding on dessert.)

“Than” refers to a comparison.

  • He would rather take the light rail to work than drive to work every day. (Comparison between riding the light rail and driving.)

Grammar Girl says to make it easier to remember, note that “then” and “time” both contain the letter “e” and “than” and “comparison” both have the letter “a.”

I will take more time to read my posts rather than a cursory review so that the entries are then correct.

Grammar Giggles Week – Zombie Proofreading

Passing along an article that was easier than trying to explain just the picture. While it’s not something I would have noticed (because I have no idea what channel I’m watching at any given time), it does show the importance of proofreading everything–not just documents or letters.

I Feel Good But Not Well

I don’t get sick often, but every once in a while something comes along to kick my butt. The latest “cold” has done just that. Three days in bed, missing my personal blog post deadline, and missing a day of work later, I’m feeling semi-human and thought being sick opened a whole new topic!

Good and well are misused a lot.  Good is an adjective.

  • She did a good job on the project the boss gave her.

Well is usually used as an adverb with action verbs, but can be used as an adjective when referring to someone’s health.

  • She ran well

It is not proper, however, to say “She ran good” because “ran” is an action verb.

  • He said he didn’t feel well when he woke up that morning.

Good can also be used with linking verbs. For instance in the response to “How are you?” it is perfectly acceptable to answer “I am good” when they are inquiring about your general status. If you are recovering from a long illness and someone asks how you are, saying “I am well” indicates to them that you are healthy.

To feel well means “to be in good health” and to feel good means “to be in good spirits.”

Once I get completely over this illness, I am hoping to be a healthy person. Healthy means to be in good health and healthful is to promote health (like healthful food).

One more illness-related set of words that are confused a lot are nauseous and nauseated.  Nauseous means to induce nausea so a pile of something disgusting makes you feel nauseous, but if your stomach is upset, you feel nauseated.

So I am good, I feel well (at least better anyway), and I do not feel nauseated. Things are looking up!

To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate: That is the Question

Another confusing proofreading issue is hyphenated words. This is particularly true when the words are sometimes hyphenated and sometimes not depending on how the word is used. There are, of course, rules regarding hyphenation.
  • Always hyphenate ex, elect, and designate when attaching them to titles. For example “Ex-President Carter.”
  • You can also use “then” before a title to indicate that the person was acting in that capacity at the time you are describing. Used in this way, it will be hyphenated when it would be confusing otherwise.
    • Then Governor Mecham was impeached in Arizona. This could be read to mean that Governor Mecham’s impeachment happened next.
    • Then-Governor Mecham was impeached in Arizona. This would be read to mean that Governor Mecham was acting governor at the time he was impeached.
  • Family titles starting with grand (such as grandmother) are written without a hyphen; however, family titles starting with great (like great-grandmother) are written WITH a hyphen for each great (for instance her great-great-grandmother).
  • When used as nouns, terms such as African Americans or French Canadians are not hyphenated. When they are used as adjectives such as African-American politicians or French-Canadian residents, they would be hyphenated.
  • Fractions written out would be hyphenated, such as one-third and three-fifths.
  • Compound numbers such as thirty-five and six hundred eighty-four should be hyphenated.
  • An age that modifies a noun is hyphenated.
    • My 40-year-old neighbor has three barking dogs.
  • An age that is an adjective phrase that comes after the noun is not hyphenated
    • My granddaughter will be 13 years old soon.
    • The twins are two years old.

The biggest hyphenation issue that I see consistently is third party. Hyphenating third party depends on how it is used. 

  •  When third party is used as a modifier, it should be hyphenated.
    • The bill for the third-party vendor was past due.
  • It would NOT be hyphenated when not used as a modifier.
    • The bill was sent to the third party for payment directly to the vendor.

For an easy test to see if the phrase is a modifier that requires a hyphen, try each word alone with the noun. If it doesn’t make sense, you need a hyphen. If it DOES make sense, then you do not use a hyphen:

  • In the example above, third vendor does not make sense so third-party vendor should be hyphenated.
  • She prefers high-quality clothing. High clothing does not make sense so high-quality should be hyphenated.