Quick Tips: That’s All Well and Good
Well and good are two words that seem to be used interchangeably with increasing frequency as of late. Either that, or I’m starting to succumb to the elementary school English spoken on the playground when I substitute at recess. So what better way to combat this than with an article to clearly define their proper use. 🙂
There are a few rules associated with the use of well and good.
Well is an adverb. This means that it describes the verb, more specifically, how something is done.
Example: Susan performed her part well. (“Well” describes how she performed.)
Good is an adjective. This means it describes a noun.
Example: Martin did a good job. (“Good” describes job here.)
When referring to health, use well.
Example: Mary-Ann didn’t feel well.
Example: When Paul gets sick, he doesn’t look well.
When using a linking verb, such as feel, and not referring to health, use good.
Example: The heat from the furnace feels good.
Example: How are you today? I’m good.
(For those who disagree on the use of good in this last example, please see Grammar Girl’s article “Good Versus Well” on this very subject.)
Good should not be used as an adverb after an action verb.
Example: Greg performed good well.
Now keep in mind that there are idiomatic uses of well and good that are accepted in speech. An athlete might say, “Hey coach, Jackson did good on the field!” or a construction worker might say, “Frank did real good on that weld job.” Whereas as classical pianist might say, “You performed well.”
More on the use of real good. If good is used as a noun, the use of real good it is acceptable as standard English, for example: Mark has the potential to do real good as the pastor of this congregation.
As an author, you can make use of these idioms as a way to create voice and add to your characterizations. Idiomatic use is fine in dialogue, but is not always a good choice in narrative. Much depends on the tone and voice of your work.
Now… go write something!
—Straus, Jane, The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation, San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2008, Pg. 11.
—Fogarty, Mignon, “Good Versus Well.” Quick and Dirty Tips, March 21, 2013.
http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/education/grammar/good-versus-well (accessed 3 August 2014)
—Garner, Bryan A., Garner’s Modern American Usage, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009, Pg. 397.