Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grammar Geek Tutorial: Definitely

Want to appear more credible, professional, and/or grammar geeky when you write?  I'm going to sporadically post a few common, but glaring, typos I see every day--and how to fix them.

Let's talk about the word "definite" for a minute.  It means absolute.  Positive.  Assured.  Decided.  

And so, when people want to put emphasis on something, they use one of those words:
"We'll definitely be there."
"He is absolutely, positively the best."
"I am decidedly yours."

Definitely is a popular word these days.  It's taken the place of totally from the 90's.  It pops up daily in blog posts, emails, and Facebook status updates.  

Sadly, it's embarrassingly rare to find it correctly spelled.  

Most frequent is the addition of an A, as in definately.  This is a typical, run-of-the-mill typo.  "Definately" is not actually a word.  Remember that there's definitely no A in definite.  Or you could think of it as "Nate" is never definite, so he definitely does not belong in defiNATEly.  I'll stop beating this horse now.

Also common is a twist on this misspelling: defiantly.  This one always makes me smile.  Defiant means rebellious, intentionally contemptuous, hostile, openly resistant.
So posting on your friend's Facebook wall something like, "I'll defiantly be at your party Saturday" actually means that you'll be there, all right, but you'll be there in hostile opposition to whatever's being celebrated.

Which is kinda funny.  

Or maybe just to a grammar geek like me.

Anyway, to sum up:
- Definite definitely does not have an A in it
- Definitely don't write defiantly (unless, of course, you're feeling a bit hostile and rebellious--in which case, go right ahead)

Disclaimer:  I don't have a major or a minor in English, grammar, or editing.  Nor have I taken a grammar or editing course in college, elementary school,  or online.  I make errors all the time; there are probably even some in this post.  I just like giving unsolicited and occasionally hypocritical advice.


  1. You crack me up Lindsay. I love little grammar tidbits too!

  2. Hahaha! I definitely miss you Miss Lindsay!!

  3. This is great. I'm a grammar Nazi too. Stopping by from MMB.

  4. I used to remind my students to break the word even smaller, "finite DEFINITELY doesn't have an 'A'!" I'd say!