Monday, January 16, 2012

Welcome to 3rd grade spelling class...

I've discussed my editing bible before on this blog. For those unfamiliar with it, my editing bible is a collection of writing mistakes that I tend to make over and over again:

overused words/phrases, like "he shrugged" or "he raised his eyebrows" (there are times when you'd think my characters are all on crack with the way they twitch and fidget);

words I tend to misuse or confuse, like the tenses of "lay" & "lie;"

and any other writing mistakes I make frequently, like my tendency to overuse exclamation points when I'm writing comedy.

This editing bible comes in handy when I'm revising and editing because it gives me a list of mistakes I'm highly likely to have made so I can find them and fix them.

Now, after recent feedback from my critique group, I've added a new category to the editing bible: compound words.

I thought I had a pretty good grip on compound words--third grade English, anyone?--but I was wrong. They are more complicated than they seem because some can be written as a single word, some require a hyphen, and some remain two separate words:

email or e-mail?
doorjamb, door-jamb, or door jamb?
smartass, smart-ass or smart ass?
nevermind or never-mind or never mind?

Until you've memorized the correct use word by word, the only way to really be sure is to look it up. The spellcheck on this blog flagged "smartass" and "nevermind" as misspelled, but all the other variations it accepted as correctly spelled.

So now my editing bible has a section devoted entirely to compound words I've abused, and I've added another step to my editing process: search every manuscript for compound words and make sure each one is used correctly.

At least I'm not the only one with this problem. Here are a couple of great sites on compound words:

Compound Words are My Nemesis, by Julie Anne Lindsey

Grammar: Compound Words: Two words, three choices, by Rachel Berens-VanHeest

Compound Words, at the Guide to Grammar & Writing

How about you? Do you have a solid grip on compound words?

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