Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0: Was or Were?


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

“If I was...” or “If I were...” 

Which is correct?

After doing some research, I found it is a matter of subjunctive versus indicative mood. 

The subjunctive is used to express wishful thinking. 

The indicative should be used for statements of fact.


If I were president, I would invest in infrastructure.

If you have a hard time remembering this, think of “If I Were a Rich Man,” the famous song from the musical Fiddler on the Roof

Handy, right?

EFG Digest
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These books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

The Associated Press Stylebook, 2017 edition
The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style
Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville Magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of the Bibliophiles series, contemporary fiction with a sprinkling of the classics, and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


Anonymous said…
Definitely handy!
R. Doug Wicker said…
A major pet peeve of mine. I cringe whenever I here 'was' used in place of 'were'.
I fix this all the time for my editing clients.

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