Good vs. well

Coconut cocktail, anyone?

Dear Conan:

I have a request for an article, since you seem to be accepting them: good vs. well.

I think I have a pretty good handle on the English language and grammar, even though I didn’t do so well in my English (now language arts — yuck!) classes in high school.

But I’m still confused by good vs. well — note the above. I see you wrote “their dentist who did really good in English in junior high edit their masterworks,” and now I’m all confused.

Please help!


Dear Mark:

To quote Charlie Brown, “Don’t you know sarcasm when you hear it?”

Oh, man — now, see, that’s what I get for being all smartenheimery! The sentence you quoted was me being ironic…making fun of those who use their dentist for proofreading. The fact is that sometimes I write incorrectly intentionally to either be funny or to make a point.

Thanks for the feedback/suggestion!


How can I refuse Mark’s cries for help, since I’m the one who caused the confusion? It is my highest aspiration to be a beacon of grammatical correctness and a paragon of linguistic virtue. I hang my head in shame having failed so completely in my mission. However, I shall endeavor to make note of the instances in which I use incorrect spelling/grammar/punctuation et. al. from now on.

So anyways…good and well. How do we know which to use when?

Not that you care, but good is an adjective. Adjectives describe nouns and pronouns. Well, on the other hand, is an adverb. Adverbs describe — you guessed it — verbs (and adjectives, but that’s another story).

Example: Fifi Trixibelle is a good belly dancer.

Good describes the noun belly dancer. In other words, good is used to tell what kind of belly dancer Fifi Trixibelle is.

Example: Dweezil belly dances well.

Well describes the verb belly dance. Well is used to tell how Dweezil belly dances.

So here’s Conan’s mnemonic device for good and well: Remember Mr. Howell from Gilligan’s Island? He’s here to help you. To decide between our two problem words, think of Mr. Howell, and how well he hoarded money.

This will help you remember that how goes with well, and then by default, that what kind goes with good.

P.S. In his email, Mark used good and well properly throughout.


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