In this edition of the Top Misused Words series, we are exploring the difference a space can make in changing a word’s usage and even its meaning.
When in doubt, consider whether it’s a noun or a verb. You will find nouns typically occur without a space and verbs will typically maintain a space. However, as with everything in the English language, there are always exceptions.
Without further ado, keep an eye out for these commonly misused words in your article writing!
Setup vs. Set Up
setup – Noun or adjective; the way in which something is organized, planned, or arranged.
Incorrect: The dog threw its cake-covered paws into the air: “It was a set up!”
Correct: The dog threw its cake-covered paws into the air: “It was a setup!”
set up – Verb; to place, raise, assemble, or put forward.
Incorrect: The cat sniggered as it setup the trap.
Correct: The cat sniggered as it set up the trap.
Breakup vs. Break Up
breakup – Noun; an end to a relationship or a division of a country or organization into smaller units.
Incorrect: Is it the End? How to Deal With a Break Up
Correct: Is it the End? How to Deal With a Breakup
break up – Verb; to disperse or cause to separate.
Incorrect: The asteroid is expected to breakup in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Correct: The asteroid is expected to break up in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Overtime vs. Over Time
overtime – Noun or adverb; time in addition to what’s normal.
Incorrect: In the jaw-dropping match, the Penguins beat the Sea Lions 2-1 in over time.
Correct: In the jaw-dropping match, the Penguins beat the Sea Lions 2-1 in overtime.
over time – Preposition; the passage or duration of time.
Incorrect: Quality kazoo technique requires regular practice overtime.
Correct: Quality kazoo technique requires regular practice over time.
Backup vs. Back Up
backup – Noun; help or support. A person or thing that can be called on if necessary.
Incorrect: I need my back up! Where’s my USB drive?
Correct: I need my backup! Where’s my USB drive?
back up – Verb; to help or support. Adverb; to move in the opposite direction from which you’re facing or traveling.
Incorrect: I had to backup my car so the police officer could backup her partner.
Correct: I had to back up my car so the police officer could back up her partner.
Checkout vs. Check Out
checkout – Noun; a point at which goods are paid for in a store or the latest time for vacating a room in a hotel.
Incorrect: Sebastian patiently stood at the grocery check out.
Correct: Sebastian patiently stood at the grocery checkout.
check out – Verb; to pay for goods and depart or to investigate and prove to be in order.
Incorrect: The owners decided to checkout the dog’s case before punishing him for eating the cake.
Correct: The owners decided to check out the dog’s case before punishing him for eating the cake.
Maintain your credibility with your audience by proofreading your articles for these misused words and making any necessary revisions. Do you have any misused words you’d like to see added to the Top Misused Words series? Share them in the comments section below – we’d love to hear from you!