In Defense of English

Helping you speak and write English well

Cringe of the Week: Exact Same

Every time I hear this phrase -- "exact same" -- I want to scream! Do people really not know that the phrase contains bad grammar?

In case you're not sure, the correct phrase is "exactly the same." Where have all the adverbs gone?

An adverb modifies a noun.

"Jane walked to work"
   How did she walk?
"Jane walked quickly to work."

Note the "-ly" on the end of the word "quickly"? That makes it an adverb. The adverb in that statement answers the question "how."

"Are these two ideas similar?
"Yes, they're exactly the same."
  not
"Yes, they're the exact same idea."

It's tempting to lapse into colloquial speech like the examples above when you're writing or speaking. Depending on your audience, using lingo can be acceptable, but if you're hoping to write a book proposal for a major publisher, or speak to corporate audiences, it is probably best to leave the colloquialisms at home. In contrast, bad grammatical phrases are not welcomed anywhere, so start deleting the phrase "exact same" from your speaking and writing.

There's a difference between developing a style in your writing and speaking, and just plain plainly sounding like a dork. Pay attention to what you're saying! If you're not sure whether you're phrasing something correctly, post a question using our online form. We'd love to clear up the confusion in a future blog post or FAQ.

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