The Language Perfectionist: Two for One

I’ve observed a strange phenomenon in my reading lately: words that are improperly divided in two. I hope it’s not a trend. The following examples are taken from major newspapers and online searches:

  • “While Mr. Assange is basking in his new found fame, there is no reason to believe he was directly responsible for downloading the diplomatic cables from secure U.S. networks.” (New found should be newfound.)
  • “How long a lay off can last is determined by the terms within the employment contract.” (Lay off should be layoff.)
  • “The road to break even has been rough…. Mr. Robyn estimates it will be years before he can turn a profit.” (Break even should be breakeven.)
  • “As the oil continues to gush into the waters off the southern U.S., we called on sociologist Lee Clarke to comment on the disaster response, or lack there of.” (There of should be thereof.)

When in doubt, consult a dictionary. A two-for-one split may be a good thing in the stock market, but not in correct writing!

[Ed Note: For more than three decades, Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant. He is author of The Versatile Freelancer, an e-book that shows writers and other creative professionals how to diversify their careers into speaking, consulting, training, and critiquing.]

Don Hauptman was an award-winning independent direct-response copywriter and creative consultant for more than 30 years. He may be best known for his headline “Speak Spanish [French, German, etc.] Like a Diplomat!” This familiar series of ads sold spectacular numbers of recorded foreign language lessons for Audio-Forum, generating revenues that total in the tens of millions of dollars. In the process, the ad achieved the status of an industry classic. Don’s work is mentioned in three major college advertising textbooks, and examples of his promotions are cited in the books Million Dollar Mailings (1992) and World's Greatest Direct Mail Sales Letters (1996). In a column in Advertising Age, his name was included in a short list of direct-marketing “superstars.” He has a parallel career as a writer on language and wordplay. His celebration of spoonerisms, Cruel and Unusual Puns (Dell, 1991), received rave reviews and quickly went into a second printing. His second book was Acronymania (Dell, 1993). Recently, Don retired from full-time copywriting in order to focus on other interests, including his passion for “recreational linguistics.” He is at work on a new book in that genre. He is a regular contributor to the magazine Word Ways and writes “The Language Perfectionist,” a weekly column on grammar and usage, for Early to Rise. Don is author of The Versatile Freelancer,an e-book from American Writers and Artists, Inc. (AWAI) that shows copywriters – and almost anyone – how to diversify their careers into consulting, training, critiquing, and speaking.