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Ten mistakes a reader never misses: Compound words (Part 9)

Compound words can be very frustrating because it does not seem like there are any hard and fast rules for determining what should be a compound word and what should be two words.  Take these words for example. Lifetime and lifespan are compound words, but life form is not. You might think that pay phone and light bulb would each be one word, but they’re not. Many compound words are not well known and are mistakenly treated as two words quite often. It’s also quite common for authors to accidentally put spaces between words like someone, something, somewhere, sometime; anyone, anything, just to name a few.. (Remember Spell Check will not catch any of these as errors if they are two words.)

Take a look at the sentences below. The first one is written as many authors would likely write it. The second sentence in the pair shows how compound words should be used properly in the sentence.

  1. He stopped in the drug store to buy some ball point pens and a note pad.
  2. He stopped in the drugstore to buy some ballpoint pens and a notepad.
  1. The school teachers met the book club at the local book store on week days.
  2. The schoolteachers met the book club at the local bookstore on weekdays.
  1. She wrote everyday in her journal about everyday life.
  2. She wrote every day in her journal about everyday life.

What did you think? Are the mistakes in sentence one of the pairs above, mistakes you would likely make? Don’t be embarrassed if the answer is yes. Compound words are one of the most confusing things about the English language in my opinion. Again, that is why having an editor thoroughly review your manuscript is definitely worth the investment.

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