On my third date with my future husband, we went to a modern art exhibition in midtown Manhattan. All I remember from it was an installation of a gigantic eyelash. In any case, sometimes when I see modern art I want to say, “An eight-year-old child could do that!”
Sometimes I feel like the opposite is true with regard to literature. Take the Modern Library’s 100 best novels of all time, for instance. More than a few of the books that made it onto the list are so utterly boring and difficult, I can’t imagine anyone has ever finished them. It’s like a book’s fame is inversely related to its readability.
As promised in my last blog, I will give you a very partial list of classics I dislike. But first, let’s do a little grammar.
Today’s installment is about two words that become one, or one word that becomes two. I have some very easy hacks, so don’t fret. You’ll nail these in no time at all.
anyone vs. any one
Anyone is a pronoun such as “he,” “she,” “they,” etc. If you substitute one of these pronouns for “anyone” and it works, you need “anyone.” In fact, think of “anyone” as a non-specific pronoun.
If you cannot substitute a pronoun for “anyone” in your sentence, use “any one,” which refers to a specific person or object.
Here are some examples. In the parentheses I will substitute a pronoun for anyone/any one, so you can see for yourself how to figure out which word or words to use.
- Would anyone like to play tennis? (substitute “he”: “Would he like to play tennis?”)
- Would any one of you like to play tennis? (substitute “she”: “Would she of you like to play tennis?”)
- I loved the musical, Anyone Can Whistle. (“We can whistle.”)
- You may choose any one of these candies. (“You may choose they of these candies.”)
awhile vs. a while
“Awhile” is an adverb (a word that modifies a verb); the “while” in “a while” is a noun, and is preceded by a preposition, usually “for” or “in.” Try substituting another noun for “while.” If it works, use “a while.”
- We ran around the block awhile. (Here, “awhile” is modifying the verb “ran.”)
- We ran around the block for a while. (1. Uses the preposition “for.” 2. Substitute the noun “hour” for “while”: “We ran around the block for an hour.”)
- Before Teresa married, she lived awhile in Boston. (The verb “lived” is modified by “awhile.”)
- Teresa hasn’t been to Boston in a while. (1. Uses the preposition “in.” 2. Substitute a noun: “Teresa hasn’t been to Boston in a blue moon.”)
everyday vs. every day
“Everyday” is an adjective; “every day” is an adverb.
- I dislike the song “Everyday People.” (“Everyday” is an adjective modifying the noun “People.”)
- When I was a kid, I heard that awful song, “Everyday People,” every day. (“Every day” is an adverb modifying the verb “heard.”)
- Why can’t I wear my everyday jeans to the wedding? (Adjectives [“everyday”] modify nouns [“jeans”].)
- I wear my jeans every day. (The verb “wear” is modified by the adverb “every day.”)
everyone vs. every one
If you can substitute “everybody” for “everyone,” use “everyone.” If you can put “each and” in front of “every one,” use “every one.”
- After my speech, everyone sent me text messages. (“After my speech, everybody sent me text messages.”)
- Every one of my constituents sent me text messages. (“Each and every one of my constituents sent me text messages.”)
- Everyone needs protein. (“Everybody needs protein.”)
- You need protein in every one of your meals. (“You need protein in each and every one of your meals.”)
into vs. in to
Here’s Doozie number 1.
The word “into” is a preposition. It illustrates some sort of action, movement, or change. The term “in to” is used when “in” belongs to one word or phrase and “to” belongs to another, different word or phrase.
- Jeremy put the coin into the charity box. (Jeremy is doing an action. So is the coin, for that matter.)
- I will put the coin in to activate the washing machine. (“Put in” is what some people call a two-word verb, while “to activate” is an infinitive. And by the way, it is usually better to keep the verb (or adverb) phrase together: “I will put in the coin to activate the washing machine.”)
- Debbie’s drone flew into the tree. (Forward movement. Drone goes to the tree.)
- Debbie flew in to Denver. (“Flew in” is a standalone phrase, while “to” is a preposition attached to the object “Denver.”)
- This blog has turned into a mammoth article. (“Turned into” shows change.)
- What do you say we turn in to go to sleep.
- My brother is really into reggae music. (First of all, I don’t have a brother. Secondly, I am not a big fan of people being “into” something. I suggest they be passionate about it or interested in it or involved in it.)
onto vs. on to
This one’s Doozie number 2.
Like “into,” “onto” also illustrates action or movement, and is a preposition. With regard to the phrase “on to,” the word “on” is part of a two-word verb and “to” is a preposition or the first part of an infinitive, much like “in to.” I personally feel that “onto” vs. “on to” is more nuanced than “into” vs. “in to,” and therefore sometimes both may be right.
- I held onto the book so nobody would steal it. (I actively held something.)
- I held on to my dream of becoming a ballerina. (“Held on” is a two-word verb phrase.)
- I held on to the railing. (Some people would write “I held onto the railing.“)
- She threw the chair onto the porch. (Can’t get any more active than that. And p.s.: If you want to learn about “anymore” vs. “any more,” see this.)
- Don’t think you can get away with it; I’m onto you.
Some British-English purists prefer to use “on to” exclusively. See this article for an explanation.
As promised: books I dislike
These are taken from the Modern Library’s list.
Lolita. Okay, I haven’t read it since college, but the subject matter is so offensive that I was unable to uncover its greatness. (No pun intended.)
Lord of the Flies. I read this as an adult, and it made me sick. Such cruelty. Can someone please tell me the point of this book? And why it’s great? I’m serious; am I missing something?
Ulysses. Now hear this: If you can’t make sense, you can’t be called a brilliant writer. Who wants to read a thousand pages describing every second of one woman’s day? No, I was not an adult when I tried to read it, which might account for some of my negativity, but I don’t like Joyce’s other books either.
Portnoy’s Complaint. Yes it was funny in some parts, but remind me why it’s great. Does “innovative” and “groundbreaking” have to mean great? And I thought the ending was incredibly dumb.
Sophie’s Choice. How did this get on the list? I mean, it was entertaining and all that, but it’s no War and Peace (although War and Peace is no War and Peace).
For another list of the 50 greatest books of all time, go to http://thegreatestbooks.org/. I agree with more of the choices on this list than on the Modern Library’s list.
I’d love to see your list of books you dislike. Let me know in the Comments, below. And please let me know how you feel about my choices. Lord of the Flies fans: In the Comments section, please give me your opinion of the book, and why it’s worth my rereading it.