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Write the Right Word: Both and Either

“Both” and “either” often get overused. That’s especially the case in sentences where an “and” or an “or” makes them unnecessary.

For example: “Mary and John went to the store.” The “and” clearly indicates the two of them went to the store. You don’t need to say “Mary and John both went to the store.” However, if you do not use their names, then “both” is OK: “Both also went to the movies.”

You don’t need to use “either” when you give two options and connect them with an “or.” For example: “The producer had a choice of planting corn or soybeans” (not either corn or soybeans).

One additional note on “either:” Use it to mean one or the other, not both. For example: “You can use either door.” However, “The woman placed planters on both sides of her front door.”

Ellen Crawford, information specialist, (701) 231-5391

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