Poke through Peck to perfect your prose
How am I today? I am good.
Does my response sound incorrect to you? Did it make you shudder?
Until recently, I would have scolded myself to hear "I am good" come out of my mouth rather than "I am well." Despite it being a sentence I utter multiple times per day, I'd never thought of the grammar behind the response; I simply followed the protocol learned in grade school—that one should use the adverb "well" rather than the adjective "good" to modify a verb.
But no matter how many times I'm asked how I am, I've never liked saying "I'm well."
Then, I came upon Peck's English Pointers, by writer, editor, and author Frances Peck.
Now, I know whether "well" or "good" is correct—and I know why.
The Pointers are available free of charge from the Government of Canada's Public Works and Government Services website, and Peck provides quizzes to test your knowledge. Chapters include information on grammar, punctuation, usage, clarity, and trends. The articles are well-articulated with a light-hearted tone and none of the stuffiness associated with English grammar tomes, which, for the record, I adore.
Peck's resource contains information for new English speakers and more experienced ones, too.
According to Peck's chapter on Adjective/Adverb Aptitude, "Using an adverb instead of an adjective to complete a verb like feel, be or seem—a linking verb—is a widespread error."
That sentence stopped me in my tracks. I read on eagerly:
"Linking verbs, or copulas, as they were once known, convey the condition or state of the subject rather than expressing an action... An adverb won’t work, because the word after the linking verb refers back to and describes the subject, always a noun or pronoun. And no matter how hard it tries, an adverb can’t describe a noun or pronoun."
I've read many grammar manuals, and this rule had never made more sense to me than it did in Peck's English Pointers. Maybe other manuals excluded it, or maybe Peck's way of communicating the message finally made it stick. Either way, it made me dig through Peck's other chapters to find other hidden gems to explain the nuances of the English language.
Let us all be life-long learners when it comes to using our own language clearly and effectively.