Writing for Business

Sep 10 2012   2:05PM GMT

“augurs well” vs. “all goes well”

Ivy Wigmore Ivy Wigmore Profile: Ivy Wigmore

Which is correct?
The percentages of salary raises in the industry __________ for IT employment prospects.
a. augurs well
b. all goes well

Answer: a.

I had a lot of fun writing about augur vs. auger a while back and I thought I was done. But no — there’s more grammar fun to be had. To augur is to indicate or predict from signs or omens; augury is the practice of doing so. Apparently, some people hear “augurs well” and, unfamiliar with augurs think what was said was all goes. This is an eggcorn — a word or phrase that people misshear and then think is something else entirely. The error often goes unnoticed in speech because it sounds enough like the correct term that people may not notice. But then when people write it out, the error is displayed.

Paul Brians reported these two examples for the Eggcorn Database:

  • “IF RRL come out with an announcement re GOLD production to start getting a $$$flow it all goes well for Future exploration” (link)
  • “he almost got something from the game but despite losing late on Lisselton did show a marked improvement in form and it all goes well for the future.” (link)

I suspect there’s also some confusion with the correct uses of the phrase “all goes well,” as in “If all goes well, I’ll be there by noon” or “I hope all goes well with your presentation.”

I guess you could say that the complexities of the English language combined with the inventiveness of its speakers augurs well for the continuation of this blog.

Follow me on Twitter @tao_of_grammar

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