Because I was taught a long time ago that either is used with or, and neither is used with nor, constructions like these bother me:
“Neither Mrs Thatcher or I, would have any time for the sisterhood approach” says Ann Widdecombe
No further details have been released, and neither Kim or Kanye have mentioned any engagement on Twitter.
Even though this is a rule of which I am absolutely certain, I did my usual warm-up research before writing about the errors in these quotations. I discovered that not everyone who writes about usage agrees on the immutability of this rule.
First I looked up neither in the OED. There I found an entry for neither…or. All it says is:
Numerous grammarians from the mid-18th century onwards criticize the use of or rather than nor as ungrammatical and improper.”
This note is followed by twelve examples of the use of neither…or from 1395 to 1997.
Next stop, Merriam-Webster:
neither: used as a function word before two or more words, phrases, or clauses joined by nor or sometimes by or…
In addition to allowing or in the regular definition, M-W gives a further nod to the neither…or usage in a note:
Although use with or is neither archaic nor wrong, the conjunction neither is usually followed by nor.
Leaving the dictionaries, I looked in at the Columbia Journalism Review where I found an article by Merrill Perlman which quotes various authorities and concludes with a litany of contradictory advice as to what is correct or incorrect usage with neither certain to leave any reader confused.
So, is “neither…or” all right to use? No, not in modern usage.
People who have the leisure and inclination to argue about such things are free to do so. Those who just want to write inoffensive standard English are advised to go with the conventional rule that either is used with or and neither is used with nor.
You don’t have to take my word for it:
If two or more particular things or people are being mentioned, neither is followed by nor, not by or…–Penguin Writer’s Manual (2002)
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