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.]
  • No doubt much of this is due to poor editing caused by too much trust being placed in spellcheck and dictation software.
    Another recent trend of significant irritation is the misuse of “a” when “an” is called for. Also a software dependence issue, I am hoping. I prefer “an” prior to “historical” and it should be used before certain spoken letters that start with a vowel sound (F,X,S,N,M, etc.)– an FFL license, an IBM spokesman, an AA meeting…

    Hope this is fodder for a new article.
    Have a great weekend ahead,