Help, Grammar Nazis!

Help me, Grammar Nazis!
We were just reviewing an ad for the shop with this copy: “What Ever Your Passion, Tapestry Craft Has Something For Everyone.” And I suddenly realized that “What Ever” should be one word, not two. Right? The dictionary only lists it as one word, yet upon Googling there are tons of examples of people saying “What ever happened to…?” Of course, I’m talking about the Internets here so those might be all idiots. At any rate, we’re now having them change it. I just want to be sure I’m right. Thoughts?


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  1. This is long, boring, and you probably looked it it already, oh Happy New Year!

    Dictionary. com says “both whatever and what ever may be used in sentences such as Whatever (or What ever) made her say that? Critics have occasionally objected to the one-word form, but many respected writers have used it. The same is true of the forms whoever, whenever, wherever, and however. In adjectival uses, however, only the one-word form is used: Take whatever (not what ever) books you need. When a clause beginning with whatever is the subject of a sentence, no comma should be used: Whatever you do is right. In most other cases, a comma is needed: Whatever you do, don’t burn the toast. When a noun followed by a restrictive clause is preceded by whichever or whatever, it is regarded as incorrect to introduce the clause with that in formal writing: whatever book that you want to look at; one should write instead Whatever book you want to look at will be sent to your office or Whichever book costs less (not that costs less) is fine with us.”

  2. Ok, Grammar Nazi #1 to the rescue. I agree with you that Whatever should be one word. So do these sites:
    Tameri Guide for Writers
    and EditPros (under “however”). It is proper to use the two-word version in a question, because “ever” modifies and accentuates the question (the verb in particular, I think, seeing that the adverb ‘ever’ shouldn’t be able to modify the pronoun ‘what’), but can usually be removed without significantly changing the meaning. (“What…happened to…”) In your case, removing “ever” would wreck the suitability of “what” as the subject. (Still, I can think of cases where “whatever” is proper but “what” would work by itself as well: “I’ll do whatever you want to do.”)

    I can’t help but comment on the entire copy, corrected: “Whatever your passion, Tapestry Craft has something for everyone.” The focus abruptly switches from You (“your passion”) to Everyone. Kind of makes that first phrase, “Whatever your passion,” seem unimportant. Like saying, “Wherever you go, I can go to many different places.” instead of “wherever you go, I can follow you.” Personally, I’d keep it broad–“We have all the bases covered”–or focused–“We can hit a specific target wherever it may be”–but not both. But I’ve never been any good at advertising, so probably you shouldn’t listen to me!

  3. I’ve checked my usage dictionary and a couple of style manuals–they’re no help whatsoever (ha ha). I think the single-word usage is correct–I did a double-take when I read the original copy. It just doesn’t look (or read) right, does it? You’re using “whatever” as a pronoun, with an implied “is” as the verb, and then “passion” is the antecendent.

    I doubt this is a hard and fast rule, but when it’s a question, I go with the two-word form: “What ever made her think she could wear those shoes with that dress?” When it’s a statement, I go with one: “Whatever she wants to wear is fine with me.”

  4. Sorry, I wrote the second paragraph up there while Nathaniel was posting his (dead-on) response, apparently.

    Also, I just saw that I put an extra “n” in “antecedent.” My bad. Is there anything more embarrassing than making an error in a post about grammar? Actually, I guess making the error and being an English teacher would be worse. 🙁

  5. Thanks, everybody! I’m happy to know I haven’t lost my bad grammar-spotting skills, even if I can no longer justify my hunches… 🙂

    And for what it’s worth, Nat, I agree with you on the sentence changing focus. I don’t think it’s too egregious, though. The two sentence halves are actually on separate pages in a book – separated by the spine – so I think that provides a “pause” that makes it less abrupt. It’s almost like the “Whatever your passion” should be followed by an ellipsis, as if a TV announcer was reading it.

    At any rate, the whole discussion is probably moot because the ad is going in the book they put in fancy hotels, so the intended audience are rich idiots sitting in hotel rooms voluntarily reading advertisements… so I doubt any of them are going to notice anyway. 🙂

  6. Hmm. Upon re-reading that, I think I should have said “bad-grammar-spotting” instead. Otherwise it sounds like my skillz are bad!

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