Grammar Gremlins: One Word or Two?

There don’t seem to be any hard and fast rules for the “one word or two” question, especially since many of the words we puzzle over can go either way, with some difference in meaning.

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Altogether as one word means in sum: Jane read fourteen books altogether last month. All together means at one time or in one place: All together now, let’s read this book aloud.

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All right is two words. Alright is not all right; it appears in my Webster’s New World Dictionary as “a disputed variant spelling of all right.” Go for broke—you can afford an extra l and a space.

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Anybody, everybody, and somebody are single words, unless you are talking about actual bodies. “Jane met somebody in the woods” might give you the beginning for a romance novel. If “Jane found some body in the woods,” it had better be romantic suspense.

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Anymore can be one word or two as a negative adverb, as in “I don’t eat rutabaga anymore,” although most grammarians prefer two words. In “Do we have any more rutabaga?” use two words. Two words are always correct.

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Anyone is an indefinite singular pronoun: If anyone has something to say, let her speak now. To pick out one person or thing from a group, use two words: We did not hear from any one of the members. Everyone and Someone follow the same rules.

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Anyway is one word when it means “in any case”: I don’t care if it rains, I’m going hiking anyway. But when you get to the crossroad, you can go any way you like.

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Awhile is an adverb: Jane decided to rest awhile. But if it’s used as a noun (“Jane decided to rest for a while,” “It’s been a while since I saw Jane,” “After a while Jane left”), it requires two words.

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Everyday is an adjective: Those are Jane’s everyday shoes. As a reference to time, two words: Jane wears those sandals every day.

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gremlin-2Someday is an adverb meaning some future day or time: I will get this novel finished someday. When not used as an adverb, two words: I will finish this article some day next week. Sometime works the same way. Anytime does not appear in my aging dictionary as one word, but it has sneaked into the language on sometime’s coattails as an adverb: We can talk anytime, but any time tomorrow morning would be best. Two words are correct in either case.

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Thanks to three of my standbys: The Wordwatcher’s Guide to Good Writing and Grammar (Freeman 1990), The Careful Writer (Bernstein 1965), and Webster’s New World Dictionary (1984). The Associated Press Stylebook (2007) agrees with them. We’re not quite over the hill yet!

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Kay Hudson is an admitted Word Nerd. Her last trip to Half Price Books netted The Associated Press Stylebook for reference, and Semantic Antics and The Elephants of Style to read for fun. Visit her and her Grammar Gremlins at kayhudson.com.

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