I’ve noticed in quite a few books I’ve read, the couple versus couple of conundrum has confounded many excellent writers. In fact, one best-selling author never gets this right. I think the way we speak has much to do with us writing it incorrectly. We often say: couplea and run it together or leave off the “of” in speech, but if we do it incorrectly in writing, it will throw some readers out of the story. I hope these quick tips and rules will help you keep it straight!
The rules below are from Kathy Ide, editor extraordinaire and grammar/punctuation guru.
Use “couple” alone when it’s used as noun. For example: “Allen and Jenna make such a cute couple.” Anytime “couple” is used as a noun, it stands alone.
However, when couple is used as a modifier, you must add “of” . For example: “I saw a couple of horses in the field next to my house.” It is never “a couple horses” and should always be “a couple of horses.”
Next time you plop down in front of your keyboard and begin writing the next NYT Best Seller, keep this quick tip in mind. Couple is a noun or a modifier. If it’s a noun it stands alone, if it’s a modifier, it must have it’s partner “of”.