I’m With -ER

I’m going to go off on a grammar tangent, you guys. I love grammar. LOVE IT. As a Linguistics minor in college, I learned to respect changing language, and in spoken language, I heed the general “if a person is understood, then the language is working” ideal. But written word is a different animal, and it’s harder to break me of these rules. Yes, if you’re understood, the language is working, but also, editors answer to a higher power: copyeditors (angel sound). And copyeditors don’t want ANY of your bs.

I totally understand (and embrace) that language is a living, growing, changing thing. I do. But there are some things that just sound like a farty honk in the middle of a beautiful symphony. And one of those is this new, strange tendency to use MORE something instead of something-ER in all cases.

I have hypotheses about why we are using MORE more. In brief: I think it’s partially because of the excessive use of hyperbole (it’s even MORE annoying than it was ten years ago when all we were saying was a thousand percent). But it also has to do with the rhythms of language now.

I listen to language a lot, and carefully. I hear patterns. And a very contemporary pattern is for very staccato sentences. We even do it in our writing, with. That. Very. Trend. (You’ve seen it, right? With the periods between words for emphasis? Can we just not though? It’s tired. I’m tired.)

The use of MORE instead of the often grammatically correct –ER plays directly into that trend. Consider this example:

(Incorrect) OMG I’m even more cool than I was yesterday. (You can practically hear the periods.)

As opposed to

(Correct) Yo, I’m cooler than I was yesterday. (This feels more languid, and almost skater-ish in tone.)

Coooooollllerrrrrr as opposed to more.cool. (laaaaaaaa vs. bam.bam)

I hear it, and I get it. But my grammar marm self (who is, actually, an editor) can’t get on board. If you want to sound staccato in this case, choose a word that takes more instead of -er. More kickass. More badass. More something with less ass but two or more syllables.

Here’s another example:

(Incorrect) Wanda is more smart than Patrick, and that’s why I’m voting for her!

I still hear what you’re getting at, but I also want to tear down Wanda’s streamers and balloons and replace them with flyers that say “I’m with -ER!”

The way to get my vote is to say

(Correct) Wanda is smarter than Patrick, and that’s why I’m with her!

The actual rule, according to my grammar teachers and the Interwebz is that we use more for polysyllabic adjectives, and –er for monosyllabic adjectives. So things are greener, but more yellow. Posher, and more elegant. Your writing can be more excellent, and also more marvelous, and your prose shorter, greater, and tighter. This blog post is more terrific and grander than the last one. (Look how I just combined a more and an –er in one sentence! Wut. Magic!)

There are exceptions, there always are. In this case they are words that end in y: Prettier. Funnier. Sillier. Jauntier. Wonkier. (All things I aspire to be.)

Write how you want to write. Use language how you want to use language. But know this: Editors know the rules and you better have a very good reason for breaking them. Don’t give us a reason to suspect you don’t know what you’re doing.


One comment

  1. Abigail · May 26, 2017

    Love this, and I learned something! Never knew the monosyllabic/polysyllabic rule. Cool, yet so nerdy.


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