Wednesday, October 28, 2009

WNW: Every Day or Everyday?

Which do you use? When? What's the difference? Is there one?

The everyday/every day mix-up is easily one of the most common mistakes I see in my editing work and one of the most common questions I'm asked.

Kinda figured it made sense to address it here. I do mention it in There, Their, They're as well, and I think I do a pretty good job of it. But recently, I had a brain flash about how to explain it even better.

I'm hereby using that brain flash in this post and reserving the right to reprint it in the second edition of the book. 'Cause I can do that. :)

Every day
This phrase is pretty much what it sounds like: something that happens on a daily basis.

I brush my teeth every day.
Every day, I send my kids off to school.
I check the mail every day for another rejection.

It's easy to know whether to keep the space.

Just ask: Can I add the word "single" between "every" and "day" and have it make sense?

If so, keep the space:

I brush my teeth every single day.
Every single day, I send my kids off to school.
I check the mail every single day for another rejection.

They all work. Woohoo!

Everyday (one word)
Going all technical for a second, this is one word because it's an adjective. It describes what comes next.

Try replacing "everyday" with a different adjective, one that means something similar, like:
  • regular
  • usual
  • typical
  • normal
  • common
Does the sentence still work?

For example:
Running out of toilet paper around here is an everyday (normal/typical) event.

Her everyday (typical/regular) migraines are debilitating.

Is this type of outburst an everyday (normal/common) occurrence for your daughter?

If you notice, those kinds of words don't work as replacements for the two-word variety (every day):

I brush my teeth every day (typical/normal?).
Every day (regular, common?), I send my kids off to school.
I check the mail every day (usual, normal, typical?) for another rejection.

In summary:

Ask: Can you replace the phrase with a word such as regular, typical, normal, common, or usual?

If YES: Make it ONE word, no spaces (everyday). It's an adjective.

If NO: Use TWO words and a space (every day). The phrase is just referring to a regular time period.

If you've decided the phrase needs a space, test it further by adding "single" between "every" and "day," making it, "every single day." Does it still make sense? If so, you're good to go.

See? Easy peasy.


Cluttered Brain said...

Thank YOU so much for this. I am SURE I am guilty of doing this "every day" Hmm. Did I just use it the right way?

Is it a normal everyday occurence? Probably happens more than I would like it too so YES, Im sticking with "Every day I constantly confuse the way I should use these words--everyday VS. Every Day...Thanks for the clarification!!! Your Word Nerd book is definitely on my Christmas wish list!

Sherrie said...

Thanks for this lesson. You just made it very easy to remember which one to use in certain sentences.

Anonymous said...

Best explanation ever.

Kristina P. said...

Thank you! This is one I struggle with all the time.

That Girl said...


To tell the truth, I hardly ever use the one-word everyday. But if I do, it will be correctly.

Angie said...

I was just thinking about this very thing earlier this week. Fortunately, I got it right! Thanks for explaining.

Melanie Jacobson said...

I millionth the other commenters. I like this explanation!

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

Brilliantly expained as always!

Jenny P. said...

So, generally speaking, I would consider myself somewhat of a word nerd myself. Most of your word nerd posts, I read and think, "Yes, yes, she's doing a lovely job of explaining this." But this time, I absolutely learned something.

How bout them apples!!

Cranberryfries said...

I gotta admit I was a bit nervous when I read the first part because I wasn't sure I knew the difference. After that, it really is easy peasy!

Loralee and the gang... said...

That explains it perfectly! Thank you!

Wonder Woman said...

Aha!! Simply knowing that "everyday" is an adjective clears it up for me.

Thanks for this one!

Carolyn V. said...

How strange that I was just thinking this last week when I was doing a research paper! I'm going to have to print this off.


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