Last week, my mother emailed to ask if she was using the word “nor” correctly, which brings me to today’s post: the use of either, neither, and the connecting words that go with them.
First things first:
If you are matching either and nor, I hate to break it to you, but you’re doing it wrong.
Additionally, nor is generally not used where neither is not also used. Got enough negatives in there for you? Here’s an example:
“I fear man nor beast!” Jay proclaimed as Frank stared at the python coiled on the branch over his head. (Wrong.)
“I fear neither man nor beast!” Jay proclaimed as Frank stared at the python coiled on the branch over his head. (Right!)
Correct Use of Either
Either is used when you are making a comparison between two ideas, and only one of the ideas will come to pass. Example:
“Well,” said Frank, “either you start fearing, or you are camping by yourself.”
Correct Use of Neither
Neither indicates that the two ideas are linked together. It’s kind of like a negative conjunction. But if you use neither, then make sure your sentence does not have any other negatives preceding it. If you prefer to use a negative, then you want to use either.
Jay had seen neither the snake nor the wasp’s nest on the next tree, and was preparing to stake his tarp in that less-than-safe location.
Jay had not seen either the snake or the wasp’s nest on the next tree, and was preparing to stake his tarp in that less-than-safe location.
Hopefully you will never see a stray nor again.
Need more grammar help? After you master “neither nor” and “either or” in the practice section below, check out my favorite tool, ProWritingAid , which helps writers improve their grammar, sentence structure, and more. Also, be sure to use my coupon code to get 25 percent off: WritePractice25
Tell us about a disastrous camping trip. Use either/or and neither/nor to establish how much your characters would rather be anywhere but the African savanna/Arctic tundra/Griswold family camping trip.
Post your practice in the comments when you’re finished.