A mistake students and clients make that surprises me a lot is the failure to know (or research) which words should be put together as a single word—or which supposedly single word is actually two words. Why should this amaze me? Because the dictionary is right here online and/or a simple search engine search can (most often) make the usage clear.
But I guess, to take a step back, what really catches me off guard is that the student or client doesn’t suspect that the two words might be taken as one or that the single word might possibly be broken in two.
Sometimes, yes, I know the answer. We write “online” and not “on line.” We write “ashcan” and not “ash can.” These are completely logical. How about wastepaper? Well, I just wrote it and spellcheck liked it, so I know I can leave it that way. On the other hand, it doesn’t like the word “spellcheck.” So let me go look that up. I do so by first performing a search. Universally, what I come up with for search results are spell check (one spell-check). Okay, I’ll concede. I’ll use two words. But the reader will never know I had the use wrong to begin with.
So the process goes. I look up everything if I’m at all likely to make a mistake. I don’t want to make a mistake. I want to have the right usage. So, my question is why my students and clients don’t look up the word or words. That’s part of the job of being a writer. And if I forget which the correct use is and come across the word again and again? You know what? I look it up every time. Because I can and I don’t even have to pick up a physical dictionary. Though if I think the physical dictionary has an older word I know is proper usage, I’ll pick it up and thumb my way to the page where the word should be.
And here’s the OneLook Dictionary if that will help: https://onelook.com/ . Yes, they spell that as one word: OneLook.
Oh, no, I just stumbled across this in a client’s manuscript: Hood winking… Means, I suppose, a winking hood.
Here are some I’ve seen recently:
And much, much more. Please remember, I don’t know all the answers, but I look up everything I’m suspicious of and also if the spell checker flags the word and I think I’m right. Sometimes I am.
Have you downloaded my Kindle stylebook, The Naked Writer? Have you taken a class with me at Writer’s Digest University? https://www.writersonlineworkshops.com/ I always have classes coming up and I know I can help you become a better writer. I have a 12-week novel workshop starting 12/7 and an 11/30 Fundamentals of Fiction. Or read a novel or two of mine, such as Question Woman & Howling Sky: https://www.amazon.com/Question-Woman-Howling-Sky-Hayden-ebook/dp/B019PUAVLI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1511548622&sr=8-1&keywords=Question+Woman+%26+Howling+Sky . Post a comment if you want to contact me here.