One Word or Two? 10 Common Mistakes

One Word or Two? 10 Common Mistakes

Are you confident about terms being one word or two? If you are, congratulations! If not, though, you’re not alone. Errors of this type are some of the most common in the English language. In this post, we’ll cover some of the most common mistakes so that you’ve got the basics covered – whether you’re a writer, a proofreader, or an editor.

What Are Compound Words?

Compound words comprise two or more words that can sometimes be joined into one. There are three types: 

  • Open compounds (e.g., “cell phone”)
  • Hyphenated compounds (e.g., “father-in-law”)
  • Closed compounds (e.g., “website”)

Although there are no hard and fast rules, most compound words follow common patterns. For example, compound nouns tend to use one word, compound verbs usually use two words, and compound adjectives tend to use hyphens between the words. 

While figuring out whether a term is one word or two can be tricky, remember that consistency is key. Check the preference in your chosen style guide and stick to that as much as possible!

One Word or Two? 

1. A lot

“A lot” is exclusively written as two words. It’s a quantifier that goes before a noun to show its quantity. It’s not to be confused with the verb “to allot,” meaning “to divide”:

There are a lot of budding proofreaders.

2. Each other

“Each other” is a pronoun phrase that’s always written as two words:

They looked at each other in confusion.

3. Anymore/any more

When referring to time, the adverb “anymore” is the way to go:

We don’t talk anymore.

When referring to the quantity of something, use “any more”:

There aren’t any more sweets in the house.

4. Every day

“Every day” can be one word or two. “Every day” is an adverbial phrase meaning “each day”: 

I go for a walk every day.

“Everyday” is an adjective meaning something used or seen daily:

We use a lot of these words in our everyday life.

5. Apart

“Apart” can be one word or two. “Apart” is an adverb describing a separation between things:

We’ve been apart for far too long.

“A part” is a noun phrase meaning a shared part of something whole:

A part of me has always longed to be a proofreader.

6. Into

This is arguably one of the most misused compound words on this list. “Into” is a closed compound preposition that indicates a subject either transforming or going inside something:

It was a hot summer’s day, and the ice cream had turned into soup.

After a long day, she crawled into bed.

When using “in to,” “in” and “to” are no longer compound words. “In” is an adverb, while “to” is a preposition. Sometimes they happen to be next to each other, usually as part of phrasal verbs (e.g., drop in, hand in, log in):

Student: Should I upload my assignment into the student portal?

Teacher: No, you can turn your assignment in to me.

7. Onto

“Onto” is a preposition meaning that a subject is “on top of” an object. It can also imply suspicion:

They climbed onto the stage.

You think you’re getting away with this, but I’m onto you.

“On to” is part of a phrasal verb where “on” is separate from “to”:

Once you pass the final exam, you can go on to become a professional proofreader.

8. Every time

Despite Britney Spears’ iconic song spelling “Everytime” as one word, “every time” is always used as two words, so this lyric should read:

Every time I see you in my dreams, I see your face.

9. Proofreader

“Proofreader” is one word:

Take our course to become a certified proofreader.

10. Nowadays

“Nowadays” is one word, but it’s sometimes mistaken for “now a days.”

Nowadays, Proofreading Academy is called Knowadays.

We’ve only covered 10 examples here, but there’s always more to discover! If in doubt, your client’s style guide is the first place to check. If that doesn’t have all the information you’re looking for, your safest bet is a reliable dictionary such as Merriam-Webster, Cambridge, or Collins, depending on the proofing language you’re working with.

Becoming a Proofreader 

Want to learn more about common errors like these? Our Becoming A Proofreader course will teach you everything you need to know to confidently spot (and fix!) common spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. Sign up for a free trial today!

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