Most copywriters already understand the importance of maintaining accurate spelling and grammar, but there are some words and phrases that constantly cause even the most confident writer to trip up.
This is often because we get confused whether we should write something as one word or two. In this feature, we take a look at 50 such words or phrases that can cause confusion and explain best practices for writing them.
Is “a lot” one word or two?
“A lot” should always be spelled as two words. “Alot” is a common misspelling. For example:
Ben makes a lot of grammar mistakes.
It’s not to be confused with “allot,” a verb meaning to allocate or set aside.
Is “after school” one word or two?
Use the hyphenated “after-school” if the phrase is used as an adjective, or two words as an adverbial phrase. For example:
Basketball training is an after-school activity.
Polly plays basketball after school.
Is “anymore” one word or two?
The two-word phrase “any more” refers to quantities, while the single word “anymore” is an adverb that refers to time. For example:
Are there any more chips?
I never eat chips anymore.
Is “anytime” one word or two?
The two-word form “any time” is always correct, as either a quantity or an adverb. The single word “anytime,” however, can work as an adverb. For example:
I don’t have any time to relax.
You can call me anytime.
Is “apart” one word or two?
“Apart” is an adverb denoting separation, whereas “a part” is a noun phrase referring to a section of a whole. For example:
The couple spends a lot of time apart.
The dog is a part of the family.
Is “awhile” one word or two?
“A while” is a noun phrase referring to an unspecified period of time. “Awhile” is an adverb that works like a contracted form of the phrase “for a while”. For example:
It will take a while for the train to arrive.
I have been waiting awhile for the train.
Is “backyard” one word or two?
If an adjective, use the single word “backyard”. As a noun, either “backyard” or the two-word “back yard” is acceptable, though two words is typically favored. For example:
Tariq is hosting a backyard barbecue.
Tariq is hosting a barbecue in his back yard.
Is “cannot” one word or two?
“Cannot” is almost always correct in formal writing, though informally you can also use the contraction “can’t”.
The exception is the rare case when “not” is part of a separate phrase like “not only,” in which case “can not” would be correct. For example:
Chloe cannot bake cakes.
Nell can not only bake cakes, she can bake pies, too.
Is “cell phone” one word or two?
“Cell phone” is always two words, whether as a noun or an adjective. For example:
Ed spends too much time on his cell phone.
Apple is a popular cell phone manufacturer.
Is “childcare” one word or two?
“Childcare” is typically written as one word when it’s a noun, though “child care” is an acceptable variant. Similarly, when it’s an adjective, “childcare” is the prevalent form, though some writers use “child care” or “child-care.” For example:
The college offers excellent childcare.
The au pair has excellent childcare experience.
Is “cyber security” one word or two?
As it’s a relatively recent addition to the language, sources differ on whether “cybersecurity” is one word or two. But the Associated Press mandates it as a single word, so “cybersecurity” is the best spelling to go with, whether it’s a noun or an adjective. For example:
The company takes cybersecurity seriously.
Hackers pose a serious cybersecurity risk.
Is “daycare” one word or two?
Though the single-word “daycare” is occasionally used, the two-word “day care” is the more common spelling, and the one endorsed by the Associated Press. For example:
The hospital provides day care.
The day care facilities are impressive.
Is “each other” one word or two?
“Each other” is a pronoun phrase that is always written as two words. “Eachother” is incorrect. For example:
Our dogs enjoy chasing each other.
Is “everyday” one word or two?
“Everyday” can be one word if an adjective, or two words as an adverbial phrase. For example:
Making grammar mistakes is an everyday activity.
I brush my teeth every day.
Is “everytime” one word or two?
Though similar compound words such as “everywhere” and “everyone” have become common, “everytime” is incorrect. The two-word “every time” should be used in all contexts. For example:
Every time we touch, I feel this static.
Jade’s team wins against Hope’s every time.
Is “follow up” one word or two?
“Follow up” is two words as a verb. As a noun or adjective, use the hyphenated “follow-up.” For example:
I want to follow up on our previous conversation.
So, I am sending this follow-up email.
Is “good morning” one word or two?
“Good morning” is a two-word greeting phrase. Writing it as one word—“goodmorning”—is never correct. For example:
After waking up, Amy said good morning to Rory.
Is “goodnight” one word or two?
The greeting said to someone at the end of the day is usually written “goodnight,” though “good night” is also sometimes used.
“Good night” can also be a phrase composed of an adjective and noun to describe a particular night, in which case it should always be two words. For example:
Damon said goodnight to Chloe before he went to bed.
Hannah had a good night with her friends.
Is “healthcare” one word or two?
Though “healthcare” is the correct form in British English, and is becoming more common elsewhere, in the US and Canada, the two-word “health care” is still the prevalent spelling, in both noun and adjective forms. For example:
The hospital provides excellent health care.
Linda used to be a health care worker.
Is “high school” one word or two?
“High school” is always a two-word phrase, whether used as a noun or an adjective. The one-word “highschool” is never correct. For example:
My children are both in high school.
The old friends shared high school memories.
Is “homeschool” one word or two?
Though some sources write it as two words, the single word “homeschool” is the prevalent form and the one favored by Merriam-Webster, for both noun and verb forms. For example:
Peter’s children are enjoying homeschool.
Peter is not enjoying having to homeschool the children.
Is “hometown” one word or two?
“Hometown” is a single word noun in American English. For example:
Jodie returned to her hometown.
However, note that in British English, “home town” is correct.
Is “into” one word or two?
“Into” is a preposition used when one subject goes within an object, or to denote transformation. For example:
Mo put the letter into an envelope.
The frog turned into a prince.
“In” and “to” are both prepositions in their own right and sometimes appear next to each other. For example:
Neil dropped in to pick up his mail.
Here, “in” is part of the verb phrase “drop in” and “to” is part of Neil’s objective, “to pick up his mail;” therefore, they are separate words.
Is “lifecycle” one word or two?
Though the single-word “lifecycle” is occasionally seen, the noun phrase “life cycle” is the more prevalent form. For example:
Infancy is part of every animal’s life cycle.
Is “nevermind” one word or two?
As a phrase telling someone to disregard a matter, “never mind” should always be written as two words.
The single word “nevermind” is only correct as a noun meaning attention or notice, in the rarely used phrase “no nevermind.” For example:
Never mind the coffee, I’ll stick to juice.
If they irritate you, pay them no nevermind.
Is “night time” one word or two?
Though the hyphenated form “night-time” is sometimes used, the single word “nighttime” is preferred by dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster. For example:
Owls can be heard during the nighttime.
Is “no one” one word or two?
Though similar phrases such as “nobody” and “someone” have become compound words, “no one” is still the prevalent form in this case. “Noone” is never correct, perhaps because it looks like it should rhyme with “moon.” For example:
Thankfully, no one was hurt in the accident.
Is “onto” one word or two?
“Onto” is a preposition meaning “on top of” or “to a position on;” or it can mean “to become informed about.” For example:
The cat jumped onto the bed.
The police are onto the gang.
“On to,” however, is used when “on” is part of a verb phrase, such as:
You need a password to log on to the website.
In this case, “on” is part of the verb phrase “log on,” so is a separate word from “to.”
Is “rockstar” one word or two?
Most dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster, agree that the noun phrase “rock star” should always be written as two words. For example:
My favorite rock star is David Bowie.
Is “seatbelt” one word or two?
There is some disagreement between sources as to whether it should be written “seat belt” or “seatbelt,” but the two-word option is more prevalent and is favored by Merriam-Webster. For example:
Make sure your seat belt is on before we start driving.
Is “set up” one word or two?
If it is a noun, the one-word “setup” is correct. As a verb, use the two-word phrase “set up.” For example:
Zoe has finished the setup of her new iPad.
Jamie hasn’t begun to set up his computer.
Is “sign up” one word or two?
“Sign up” is a two-word verb phrase. For the noun or adjective derived from it, use the hyphenated spelling “sign-up.” For example:
Rose wants to sign up to join the class.
Martha writes her name on the sign-up sheet.
Is “skill set” one word or two?
Most dictionaries agree that “skill set” is the preferred spelling, and the one-word “skillset” is incorrect. For example:
The employer saw that Katarina had the necessary skill set for the job.
Is “smartphone” one word or two?
When the term came into our language, it was first written as “smart phone”. However, it has quickly become a compound word, and today “smartphone” is much more prevalent. For example:
My new smartphone can record video in 4K.
Is “spellcheck” one word or two?
This is seen written as both “spellcheck” and “spell-check”, but the single-word form is most common, whether as a noun or a verb. For example:
Bill ran a spellcheck on the essay before submitting.
Writers should always spellcheck their work.
Is “summertime” one word or two?
The single word “summertime” is most common in American English, though in British English, “summer time” is acceptable. For example:
Mel enjoys visiting the beach in the summertime.
Is “teamwork” one word or two?
The noun “teamwork” is always spelled as a single word. For example:
Graham and Ryan showed good teamwork by getting the job done together.
Is “thank you” one word or two?
The verb phrase “thank you” is always written as two words. “Thankyou” is incorrect. For example:
Thank you, Victoria, for taking the time to see me.
Is “throughout” one word or two?
The word “throughout,” meaning during the whole course of, is always one word, never two. For example:
Adric remained irritating throughout his life.
Is “timeframe” one word or two?
Both Merriam-Webster and the Associated Press agree that the two-word “time frame” is preferable to “timeframe.” For example:
We have a tight time frame to get this project finished.
Is “timeline” one word or two?
According to Merriam-Webster, “time line” refers to a list of events that happened in history, whereas a “timeline” is a more general term for a schedule of events. However, “timeline” is becoming more prevalent in all contexts, and is usually a safe choice. For example:
Ian planned a timeline of events for the evening.
Is “timesheet” one word or two?
Though “timesheet” is used by some sources, the two-word “time sheet” is more prevalent and is favored by Merriam-Webster. For example:
Yaz logged ten hours of overtime on her time sheet.
Is “trashcan” one word or two?
The two-word noun phrase “trash can” is preferred over “trashcan” by most dictionaries, including Merriam-Webster. For example:
Donna put the packaging from her sandwich into the trash can.
Is “waitlist” one word or two?
If it’s a noun, use the one-word “waitlist.” If it’s a verb, use the hyphenated “wait-list.” For example:
Ask Jack if you want to be put on the waitlist.
Ask Jack if you want him to wait-list you.
Is “website” one word or two?
“Website” should always be one word. The prevalent form used to be “web site” in the 1990s, but this has fallen out of use. For example:
Clive regularly updates his website.
Is “wellbeing” one word or two?
In American English, the prevalent spelling is “well-being,” with a hyphen. For example:
Healthy food and regular exercise are essential for your well-being.
Note, however, that “wellbeing” is the more common spelling in British and Australian English.
Is yourself one word or two?
“Yourself” is one word, similar to “herself” and “myself.” “Your self” is incorrect. For example:
Before you can love another, you must learn to love yourself.
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Kieron Moore is a writer, script editor and filmmaker living in Manchester, England. As part of the Eleven Writing team, his specialisms include video editing and how to correctly use an apostrophe. He can be found on Twitter at @KieronMoore, usually when he’s meant to be writing.