Monday, May 27, 2019

Trouble with Words

To combine or not—that’s the question for today. In my latest story, my character was getting dressed and putting on make up. Or should it be make-up? Maybe even makeup.  I couldn’t remember. Usually, I’ll gloss over those sort of mistakes and leave them for my editor to weed out. But with this story, I am publishing it chapter by chapter on Wattpad without the help of a pro edit.

I decided I better check it out. Readers deserve the best quality read we can offer.  

The answer is…makeup. But only when it’s being used as synonymous noun. I need to put on my makeup. When it’s a verb, it’s make up. I need to make up a test. And to make it even more complicated, as an adjective, it’s make-up.  If you were sick you will need to take a make-up test.

A similar rule applies with work out. As a noun, it’s workout. That was a great workout. As a verb, it’s separate. I work out before lunch.

Pick up. It’s separated as a verb: Pick up the truck from the garage. As an adjective, it’s combined: I drive a pickup truck.  Or…The bar is a great pickup spot..

Get away. Adjective: I need a getaway car. Noun:  I could use a beach getaway. As a verb, it’s two words. Get away from the cookies.

Every day. Everyday is the adjective form. These are my everyday clothes. As opposed to: These are the clothes I wear every day. A good rule of thumb…if you can replace every with each, separate the words.

A lot. Alot is not a word, unless you are intending to divvy up portions, then you’re still spelling it wrong. Allot each player Gatorade. Vs. A lot of players drink Gatorade.  

All right vs. alright. Although alright is gaining ground, the rules for when it’s acceptable can be complicated, whereas all right is always all right. Being the sort of gal who likes to do the easy thing, I’m a fan of all right.

Lastly, here are a few problem words to keep in mind:

Ice cream. Remember, it’s a treat so special, it deserves two words.

High school. Like the cliques of that era, it’s never combined.

Heartache. Unless you’re describing active angina, it’s one word.


That's my list of trouble words. How about you? What words give you pause while writing?


Image by Welcome to all and thank you for your visit ! ツ from Pixabay

17 comments:

Pat Hatt said...

Sure a combination of things to remember.

The Real Cie said...

Home care or homecare? I used to work as a home care or homecare nurse. Grammarly says it's home care, but the agencies I worked for always spelled it homecare.

Lynda Dietz said...

I deal with that type of stuff constantly as a copyeditor. It's even more interesting when they're different in UK English than they are in US English. Merriam-Webster and Oxford don't always agree, but at least they tell me which side of the ocean wants which word variant.

The one rule I know for sure is that Grammarly is rarely correct, and Word is even worse. I always envision the programmers snickering to themselves as they toss in another line of code that will lead innocent writers astray.

This is a great post that hits the most commonly misapplied words!

L. Diane Wolfe said...

If you can replace every with each - that makes it easy.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent, Elizabeth! Some of those confuse me.

Tyrean Martinson said...

I like the way you remember the right and all right versions!

Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine said...

I've had words like that trip me up all the time. I always head over to google to figure out what to use.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

@Pat, I'm sure a quick cat like yourself will have no troubles!

@The Real Cie, I'd guess homecare nurse...as one word...because it's being used as an adjective. I'd split home care when it applies things that need done around the house.

@Linda, I do a lot of googling. When that fails to satisfy, I start phoning friends.

@Diane, I like easy grammar cheats!

@Patricia, even with simple spelling there are words I have to pause on. Like was...it's breaking the rules of phonics and will sometimes make me scratch my head.

@Alex, thanks!!

@Tyrean, having fun and easy rules helps me remember.

Brian Croasmun said...

Ooh, now do home run, dugout, and curveball. Asking for a friend.

Mirka Breen said...

I noticed that the short -, as in make-up has gone by the wayside... [Not way-side ;) ]

Fundy Blue said...

Thanks for a helpful post, Elizabeth!

Priya Sharma said...


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joylene said...

Thanks for this, Elizabeth. These rules always confuse me. Which reminds me, glad it isn't "all ways".

Sandra said...

This was great, Elizabeth! Extremely helpful!

Powdered Toast Man said...

Great list. I did not know about the 3 versions of makeup.

I never know if it is grey or gray?

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Thanks for including ones I often stop to think about. Alright is one of my not sure, but I guess that is all right.

Michelle Wallace said...

I recognize some of those trouble words.
With regards to ice cream, I seem to remember a time when it was hyphenated, as in ice-cream?