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Author Topic: One-Word, Two-Word Mix-ups  (Read 14394 times)
Joe Carillo
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« on: August 01, 2009, 12:47:57 AM »

In my work as editor, I often spend considerable time correcting a good number of single words that should have been spelled out in two, or two words that should have been spelled out as just one word. I sometimes wish I could leave those words well enough alone so I could save time, but most of them could actually mean something different—even wrong—if not rendered in the proper way.



The word “everyday” is a particularly instructive case. Many writers habitually use it to mean “each day” in sentences like this: “She tends to her garden everyday.” That’s wrong usage, of course, for “everyday” is an adjective that means “encountered or used routinely,” as in “Our prim lady professor shocked us when came to class in everyday dress.” So the correct word choice in the sentence in question is the two-word variant: “She tends to her garden every day.” Here, it literally means “each day without fail.” As computer-savvy people might say, “every day” is wysiwyg, which is computer-speak for “what you see is what you get.”


Another recurrently misused tandem is “maybe”/“may be,” which not a few writers often use interchangeably. But the single-word form is, as we know, an adverb that means “perhaps,” as in “Maybe sabotage is what caused that plane crash.” On the other hand, “may be” is a verb form indicating possibility or probability, as in “You may be right about that woman after all.” We don’t say, “You maybe right about that woman after all.”



I strongly advise writers to also clearly differentiate between “awhile” and “a while.” The single-word form is an adverb that means “for a time”—a short period reckoned from a particular action or condition—as in “Dinner’s almost ready; please wait awhile.” On the other hand, the noun “while” preceded by the article “a” serves as the object of the preposition in expressions like these two: “It’s raining hard; stay for a while.” “We thought for a while that she could be trusted.” But take note that when we knock off the preposition “for” in such expressions, changing “a while” to “awhile” becomes a correct, natural option: “It’s raining hard; stay awhile.” “We thought awhile that she could be trusted.”


In the same vein, I must caution writers from giving their prose the wrong drift by using the two-word “all together” in such sentences as “The committee’s assessment of the situation was all together inaccurate.” It delivers an incorrect meaning for that statement because “all together” means “everyone in a group” or “all in one place.” The correct word is the adverb “altogether,” which means “wholly, “completely,” or “as a whole”: “The committee’s assessment of the situation was altogether inaccurate.”


Some of the manuscripts I copyedit also misuse the “anyway”/“any way” tandem every now and then. We know that the one-word variant means “in any case” or “anyhow,” and its two-word counterpart, “any particular manner, course, or direction.” So it’s incorrect to write, “We told her to avoid seeing that man, but she continued to date him any way”; instead, it should be, “We told her to avoid seeing that man, but she continued to date him anyway.” Conversely, it’s incorrect to write, “Do it anyway you like; after all, you’re the one paying for it”; instead, it should be, “Do it any way you like; after all, you’re the one paying for it.”


And just in case you are among those who still have trouble mistaking “everything” for “every thing,” let’s clarify the difference between them once and for all. The single-word “everything” means “all that there is” or “all that is important,” as in this sentence: “She took care of everything for me—from my speaking engagements to my travel bookings.” The two-word variant, however, means “each thing individually” and usually allows an adjective in-between: “Every little thing means a lot to her.” (August 30, 2008)

From the weekly column “English Plain and Simple” by Jose A. Carillo in The Manila Times, August 30, 2008 issue © 2008 by The Manila Times. All rights reserved.

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maxsims
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« Reply #1 on: August 04, 2009, 01:20:39 PM »

...The two-word variant, however, means “each thing individually” and usually allows an adjective in-between: “Every little thing means a lot to her.”...

Joe, is in-between another Merriam-Webster invention?
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Joe Carillo
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« Reply #2 on: August 04, 2009, 03:11:16 PM »

...The two-word variant, however, means “each thing individually” and usually allows an adjective in-between: “Every little thing means a lot to her.”...

Joe, is in-between another Merriam-Webster invention?

I don't think so; the English in the British Isles must have invented it. According to my digital Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary:

Main Entry:in-between
Function:adjective or noun
Date:1815

 : INTERMEDIATE

Since its origins date back to 1815, "in-between" antedates the modern Merriam-Webster dictionary, which was first published in 1828 as An American Dictionary of the English Language.
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