June 5, 2023

Some Things You Don't Need to Capitalize


Just because a restaurant was the first to put scrambled eggs in taco shells, it doesn't mean you capitalize "scrambled egg tacos." And just because someone is chair of the Fine Arts Department doesn't mean you need capitals in "She teaches fine arts." When in doubt, when the term could be a proper name or generic, opt for the generic interpretation and lowercase it.

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'Enjoy summer better'?
Posted by June on June 5, 2023

Here’s an interesting email I got a while back:

<<I enjoy your column and am curious about your opinion of the Time Warner ads enticing us to “Enjoy summer better” and “Enjoy back to school better.” My initial reaction was a snicker and comeback: “I already enjoy it good,” but I can’t figure out why it irks me. Is it nasty grammar, stinky syntax, or just me?>>

Usually people who write me have a specific problem with a usage and ask me whether I agree that a usage is wrong. But in this case, she didn’t have a specific problem. It was kind of my job to figure out her problem -- then address it.

I did the best I could. Here was my response:

<<I'm not sure what exactly the issue is with "Enjoy summer better," either. Perhaps it's rooted in an idea that "better" is an adjective and therefore can't modify a verb like "enjoy"? It actually is both an adjective and an adverb: http://www.yourdictionary.com/better. In the latter form, it means "in a more excellent manner" or "in a more suitable way."

So "better" is grammatical as a modifier of "enjoy." But it's a little unidiomatic. It's more common to say you enjoy something "more" than to say you enjoy it "better." So, yeah, it's a kind of odd.

The other issue could be that "better" always suggests a "than."

"I like Joe better" only works in a context in which the listener already knows who I'm comparing Joe to.

Your example sentence leaves the "than" concept implied. "Enjoy summer better than you would have without our service" is, I suppose, the general idea. But without an explicit "than" or any context to suggest one, a lone "better" seems a little out of place.

As for "Enjoy back to school better," it's a bit of a stretch -- though not wrong, per se -- to treat "back to school" as a noun. Still, I'm sure most linguists would argue that it's sufficiently established as a noun to render this sentence grammatical.

Hope that helps!>>

June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

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