Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

This document does not cover the SDK interfaces nor any other reference material.

I think the above is correct, but my grammatical checker in Microsoft Word underlines nor and suggests or. Why?

share|improve this question
add comment

4 Answers

up vote 12 down vote accepted

If the two options are negative (neither this nor that) then use "nor". Otherwise, use "or". Your example sentence can be reworded to read, "This document covers neither the SDK interfaces nor any other reference material."

NOTE: In my experience, Word's grammar checker is mediocre at best. It has a tendency to look at a sentence and suggest the opposite of the correct word. It was especially bad with [your/you're] in versions up to and including 2003, so I just keep it turned off and rely on thorough proof-reading.

share|improve this answer
1  
I definitely agree with your comments about Word's grammar checker. –  Steve Melnikoff Oct 3 '10 at 16:10
    
It can also be thought of as simply omitting "does it cover" following "nor". –  Jon Purdy Oct 3 '10 at 18:40
    
@Steve so do you think the original sentence should have "or" or "nor"? –  Bennett McElwee Dec 7 '11 at 3:32
    
@BennettMcElwee: I'd go for "nor", as ssakl says. –  Steve Melnikoff Dec 7 '11 at 10:44
add comment

My ear agrees with Word on this one. Two other possibilities:

"This document covers neither the SDK interfaces nor any other reference material."

"This document does not cover the SDK interfaces, nor does it include any other reference material."

share|improve this answer
1  
To me or sounds wrong. –  Brian R. Bondy Oct 3 '10 at 16:53
    
+1 @Brian: "Not ... or" is definitely the answer recommended by any style guide I have ever read. All answers recommending "or" are right, even though "not ... nor" is often heard in informal speech. If "nor" is separated by a comma from preceding "not", it's fine, as moioci etc. show. –  Cerberus Mar 24 '11 at 0:25
add comment

My guess is Word interprets this as:

This document does not cover [either] the SDK interfaces or any other reference material.

Compare:

  • I don't study French or Spanish. [Equivalent to Word's preference].
  • *I don't study French nor Spanish. [Equivalent to your sentence].
  • I study neither French nor Spanish. [Equivalent to moioci's first rewrite].
  • ?I study neither French or Spanish.
share|improve this answer
1  
Nice examples of shorter sentences to more clearly illustrate the structure of the various alternatives. –  John Y Mar 23 '11 at 23:52
    
Aha! The sentence contains an implicit "either", hence requires "or" rather than "nor". –  Bennett McElwee Jul 29 '13 at 3:03
add comment

"Does not cover" is a single verbal unit, so we effectively ignore the "not" when considering the rest of the sentence structure. That implies we should use "or" to link the noun phrases.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.