The Language Perfectionist: Get It Right “Every” Time

A supermarket recently opened in my neighborhood. The managers promptly posted a sign boasting “Low prices everyday.”

This is a frequent error, though that doesn’t make it any less excusable. The sign should read “Low prices every day.”

The adjective everyday precedes a noun, as in “The life of the medieval peasant was filled with everyday chores.” But every day means “each day,” as in “I commute to work every day.” In this example, the phrase is an adverb that modifies commute.

A rule of thumb is that if you can substitute “each day,” the two words every day are correct. If not, the single word everyday is most likely the right choice.

It can be tempting to conclude that a pair of words can be turned into a compound word without affecting the meaning. But this assumption isn’t always true. Other common mistakes of this sort include alright (which should be all right) and alot (a lot). Unlike everyday, though, neither of these erroneous compounds is a legitimate word.

The lesson: Be careful with lookalikes, or what the French vividly call “false friends.”

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]