Does A Job Pay Good Or Pay Well?

medical settingDoes your job pay good or does it pay well?

I solidified my Ruthless Editor stance years ago for well-paying job, and I haven’t changed my mind, despite seeing and hearing claims that good-paying job also can be acceptable.

Here’s why I’m sticking with well-paying:

A job is a thing — a noun.
Adjectives modify nouns.
You can have a good job, a hard job, an exciting job or a boring job.
But you can’t have a well job.

Getting paid for a job is an action — a verb.
Adverbs modify verbs.
You can have a job that pays regularly, pays sporadically, pays poorly or pays well.
But you can’t have a job that pays good — at least not in Standard English.

Not all online sources agree. One of my favorites, dailywritingtips.com, notes that Google searches for good-paying and well-paying are almost equal.

In other words, about half of people conducting searches consider good-paying job an acceptable term, and half consider well-paying job an acceptable term.

But that doesn’t mean both word choices are right.

Another source, grammarphobia.com, points out:

Language authorities say “good” has been used as an adverb or a quasi-adverb since the Middle Ages, and this adverbial usage wasn’t criticized until the latter half of the 19th century.

In fact, the phrase “good-paying job” doesn’t strike us as bad English— informal, perhaps, but not incorrect.

I disagree. So does dailywritingtips.com, which puts it this way:

“This job pays good” is undeniably nonstandard usage.

You might have a good job that pays well, a bad job that pays well, a good job that pays poorly, or a bad job that pays poorly.

My hope for you of course is the first scenario: a good and well-paying job.

Do you have a friend or colleague who shares the confusion over good-paying and well-paying? Pass along this blog and spread the enlightenment!

Kathy Watson
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Kathy Watson

Kathy has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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Kathy Watson
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