One word or two?

Posted on 11 September 2015 by Emily Stella

Sometimes I hesitate over a word. Should this be one word or two?

In many cases, over the course of time, two words have merged to create one – and these, while not technically correct, are frequently used in everyday dialect. Examples include anymore and nevermind. However, there are some instances where notable distinctions exist.

Here’s a quick run through the most common sources of confusion.

Everyday or every day

Everyday is an adjective. It means ordinary or routine. ‘This is my everyday office wear’, or ‘I come into work everyday.’

Every day has the same meaning as each day. ‘I take the bus to work every day.’

If you can replace every day with each day and it works then it’s right to separate the two words. Everyday can’t be replaced with each day – ‘This is my each day office wear’ does not make sense.

Sometimes, sometime or some time

Let’s start with the easy one. Sometimes implies occasionally. ‘Sometimes I like to join my colleagues for lunch.’

Sometime (no s) usually refers to a vague time in the future. It is equivalent to someday. ‘I will consider changing my career sometime.’

When saying some time, some is an adjective and describes the amount of time. It usually implies a long time has passed, ‘We have been in this meeting for some time.’

You can check whether you have it right by removing the word some from your sentence. If it still makes sense, then write some time as two words. If your sentence becomes nonsense, write sometime as one word.

Do you have time to discuss this document with me?

We’ll have to get together for a coffee time soon.

Nevermind or never mind

If you ever write nevermind as one word, spell checker will pick it up. That’s because it’s not actually a word (yet), but is now regularly used in informal writing. When we use nevermind colloquially, it’s used to mean, forget about it or it doesn’t matter.

Never mind is used between two options or ideas and is synonymous with much less or let alone. ‘I found it hard to think, never mind write.’

Overtime or over time

Overtime refers to extra hours of work, ‘I intend to work overtime this weekend.’

Over time relates to a passage of time, ‘Over time, I grew weary of the office politics.’

Takeaway or take away

You order a takeaway, ‘I’d like a takeaway skinny cappuccino with no chocolate please.’ And you buy a drink to take away, ‘I’d like my coffee to take away’.

Have you come across any words recently that have stopped you in your writing tracks? Tell us about them.