Grammar Points

1) Each other/one another

“Each other” applies only to two people; “one another” to more than two people. Hence,

Josh and Nicole loved each other.


Josh, Nicole, and Fred tickled one another.

2) “All right”/“Alright”

Do not use “alright” for “all right”—the former is a sure sign of illiteracy. It is as bad as “alot” for “a lot.” There are those who maintain that there is some parallel with “altogether”; but “altogether” is a word with a distinct meaning, differentiated from “all together”:

It was altogether too much for me

as opposed to

We went to the store all together.

3) The compound subject and direct object

A curious tendency has developed in the use of “X and I,” as if this were a fixed phrase regardless of its grammatical function in a sentence. But this is nothing more than a compound subject; the “I” has to change to “me” when it is used as a compound direct object:

Lisa and I went to the store.


Mimi took Lisa and me to the store.

You wouldn’t say

Mimi took I to the store

would you? The same applies if the direct object (“me”) becomes a compound direct object (“Lisa and me”).

4) The compound adjective

There is such a thing as a compound adjective—an adjective that consists of more than one word. In that case, the adjectival phrase must be hyphenated; but there is no hyphen if the phrase is not used as an adjective. Hence,

The windows were boarded up.


The boarded-up windows were impenetrable.

This rule also applies to the use of “well” in a sentence. Hence,

He is well known to me.


He is a well-known author.

Note, however, that the hyphen should not be used for the combination of an adverb and an adjective, even if this is in an adjectival position:

She was wearing a brightly colored garment.

where “brightly colored” is not hyphenated.

5) “Leisurely”

Please observe that “leisurely” is not an adverb, but an adjective. Hence one cannot write:

He walked leisurely to the store.

One would have to write (a bit clumsily)

He walked in a leisurely manner to the store.

One can tell that “leisurely” is not an adverb by this simple rule. Many adjectives are turned into adverbs by the addition of -ly. But “leisure” is a noun, not an adjective, so the addition of -ly makes it an adjective, not an adverb.

6) “Disinterested”

“Disinterested” does not mean “lacking in interest”; it means “impartial.” For the former meaning, you will need to write “uninterested” or some such formulation.

7) “Everyday”/“Every day”

“Everyday” is an adjective; “every day” is a noun phrase. Hence,

It was a portrait of everyday life.


I go to the store every day.

8) “Likely”/“Probably”

“Likely” is an adjective and should not be used as an adverb. A proper usage would be:

She is a likely candidate.

An improper usage would be:

He likely killed my mother.

In the latter case, it is better to use “probably.” Or you can write the sentence as:

It is likely that he killed my mother.

9) The Comma

There are many bad usages of the comma today—chiefly in its use where it shouldn’t be. Many authors are inclined to use the comma after such words or phrases (which invariably—and monotonously—begin the sentence) as “At first,” “Suddenly,” “Later,” and so forth. I would simply omit the comma in these cases, as it halts the flow of the sentence.

There are other cases where the use of the comma is actually grammatically incorrect. Consider this sentence:

He got up, and left the room.

The comma here is a grammatical error because it separates the subject of the sentence (“He”) from the second verb (“left”). This is just as bad as if you had put the comma before “got.” In other words, where you have two clauses with a single subject, there should be no comma between the clauses. It would be grammatical (albeit clumsy) to write:

He got up, and he left the room.

In other instances, a comma is not used where it should be. Consider this:

He left the room and she came in.

In this case, there needs to be a comma after “room” because the subject of the second clause is different from the subject of the first clause.

10) “Since”

There are two meanings of the word “since”—one consequential and the other temporal. In the former usage, there needs to be a comma preceding the word, as follows:

I shot him, since he killed my mother.

This is the consequential use of “since” (analogous to “because”). But consider this:

I’ve not seen him since 1995.

This is the temporal use of “since,” hence there there should be no comma.

11) “From­–To”

It is erroneous to write:

From 1935–41 he lived in Europe.

If you write “from,” you must write “to,” as follows:

From 1935 to 1941 he lived in Europe.

It is acceptable to write:

In the period 1935–41 he lived in Europe.

12) “Like” for “as” or “as if”

This is one of the most common solecisms today, and it has been increasing in usage for at least a century. But the fact that it is now widespread to the point of near-universality doesn’t make it any less of a solecism; this is a prime instance of a corruption gaining force because of ignorance of the proper use of these words.

“Like” is purely comparative and cannot be used to introduce a verbal clause—that is, a clause with an indicative verb in it. Therefore, it is correct to say:

He looked like death.

It is even correct to say:

He looked like death warmed over.

This is because “warmed over” is not an indicative verb but a gerund serving the function of an adjective. But it is not correct to say:

He looked like he was going to die.

Proper usage here dictates the following:

He looked as if he were going to die.

“As if” triggers the (now nearly vanished) subjunctive mood.

The misuse of “like” for “as” is, as I have suggested, also a long-standing error. Lovecraft exquisitely parodied it in “Literary Composition” (1920) with the following example:

I strive to write like Pope wrote.

It was featured in two old commercials:

Winston tastes good like a cigarette should.
Nobody can do it like McDonald’s can.

The correct versions would of course have been:

Winston tastes good as a cigarette should.
Nobody can do it as (or [somewhat more colloquially] the way) McDonald’s can.

The latter would have been correct if it had been written “Nobody can do it like McDonald’s,” because here like is used correctly as a purely comparative conjunction. (Similarly, in Lovecraft’s example, it would have been correct to say: “I strive to write like Pope.”)

13) Capitalisation of personal titles

There is widespread confusion as to whether a person’s title or office should be capitalised. It should be printed lower-case when it is merely descriptive; it should be capitalised only when (usually in dialogue) it serves as a substitute for a name. Hence,

She is the governor of Rhode Island.


“Now, Governor, let me tell you …”

The latter usage particularly applies to “father,” “mother,” “grandma,” and so on:

My father went to the store.


“All right, Father, I will go to the store.”

There is some debate as to whether “sir,” “madam,” “miss,” and other such titles should be capitalised even in the above example; I personally think they should not be, but that is a matter of choice.

14) “All” + “of”

The addition of “of” after “all” is always wrong, except in idioms such as “all of a kind,” “all of a piece,” and “all of a sudden.” The principle behind this rule has to do with the partitive genitive. “Partitive” means a part of something larger; genitive refers to the possessive case. There are certain words that do require the “of” because they are part of a larger whole:

Part of my life
Some of the time
None of the above

And so on. But “all” is all of something (that phrase itself is ungrammatical, but I know of no other way of expressing it for this purpose), so the “of” is supernumerary. Hence,

All the time [not All of the time]

You can see this in titles of certain famous books and other works: Eugene O’Neill titled his play All God’s Chillun Got Wings (not All of God’s Chillun …; the title is of course an old hymn); Arthur Miller titled his play All My Sons (not All of My Sons); there was even a soap opera titled All My Children (not All of My Children).

What throws people is the use of “all” with pronouns, either as the subject or as the direct (or indirect) object. Hence, when all is used as a subject one does not say

All of us went to the store.


We all went to the store.

When all is used as a direct object, one does not say

He kicked all of us.


He kicked us all.

The phrase “all of whom” can be difficult to avoid, but it can be done. One does not say:

There were ten of them, all of whom were stupid.


There were ten of them, who were all stupid.

In other words, the erroneous of after all can always be avoided. Sometimes one can fudge by writing “entire” or “the whole of” or “the entirety of”; hence, instead of

All of the United States

one should say

The entire United States