Tag Archives: rules

Compound words – a spelling lesson

When my editor/proofer returned my manuscript of Dark Tidings, I was surprised to see so many corrections to, what I discovered later are referred to as, compound words. Compound words can be used as nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs and can be spelled as one word, two words, or hyphenated. It sometimes depends on how the word is used and where it appears in the sentence. For example, word processing… a PC used for word processing will usually run a word-processing package.

Apparently I had adopted a very ‘relaxed’ style, which means I had spelt words in the way I felt made it easiest for the reader. I actually liked the style, but my publisher wanted formal spelling rules to be followed.

This was quite traumatic because I had to check all the compound words in the book… and that was after I had researched the subject and discovered that there are twenty-one (numbers are always hyphenated) basic rules. Here is an example of one of the rules.

A hyphenated compound is simply a combination of words joined by hyphens. The hyphen unites, and separates, the component words in a way that aids understanding, readability and the correct pronunciation e.g. well-to-do. An open compound is a combination of words so closely associated that they convey a specific idea or concept, but they are spelled as unconnected words e.g. lowest common denominator.

As you can imagine, it took me a while to feel I had a proper handle on the ‘basics’. So now, with handle firmly grasped, I can write my books without the worry of revisiting (not re-visiting) the whole text later. A word of warning though, have a good dictionary to hand at all times because the rules don’t always give you the right answer.

And if you can’t proofread the whole text, at least spot-check it (are the compound words here right or wrong?).

That’s my confession, what about you? What type of words do you always struggle to spell?

If you’d like to know the basic rules, please read the full article – Compound Words – the basics