Thursday, March 21, 2013

Tricky Word Usage: Nouns vs. Adjectives

by Jill Williamson

My daughter Kaitlyn is shaping up to be a good speller. Check out her latest spelling test. As an author, it's important to spell correctly. But there are many words that authors misspell and sometimes still miss catching in rewrites.

One of the trickiest types are the words that are spelled the same but are sometimes one word and sometimes two. How the word is spelled depends on how the word is being used in your sentence. Check these out. Do you ever misuse any of the following?

any more vs anymore- 
  • any more (adjective) means "any additional" or "any extra." Ex: I don't need any more paperwork for the account.
  • anymore (adverb) means "any longer." Ex: She refused to stand in his presence anymore.

a while vs, awhile- 
  • a while (noun) means "a length of time." Ex: It took me a while to finish cleaning my room.
  • awhile (adverb) means "for a length of time." Ex: Come visit me for awhile.

back door vs. backdoor-
  • back door (noun) Ex: Someone is knocking on the back door.
  • backdoor (adjective) means "furtive" or "indirect." Ex: He was an expert at finding people involved in backdoor dealings. Or for ex: The web designer needed backdoor access to fix the site.

back seat vs. back-seat-
  • back seat (noun) Ex: The back seat of my car is filled with clothing.
  • back-seat (adjective) Ex: Don't be a back-seat driver!
  • The same rules applies to back yard and back-yard. Ex: The picnic was in the back yard. Or for ex: We're having a back-yard picnic.

back up vs. backup-
  • back up (verb) means either "to move position backward" or "to make a copy of something." Ex: Don't back up until the biker passes. Or for ex: Did you back up your computer files?
  • backup (noun) means "a copy of something" or "a substitute." Ex: Do you have a backup of the files? Or for ex: We need a backup plan.

car pool vs. carpool-
  • car pool (noun) is "a group of individuals who commute together." Ex: I belong to a car pool with other people from my work.
  • carpool (verb) means "to participate in a car pool." Ex: I carpool to work on Wednesdays.

every day vs. everyday- 
  • every day (adjective + noun) combined means "each day." Ex: I shower every day.
  • everyday (adjective) describes a noun. Ex: Forgetting to eat breakfast is an everyday occurrence for me.

home school vs. homeschool-
  • home school (noun) Ex: Chris graduated from home school.
  • homeschool (verb) Ex: I homeschool my children. Or for ex: Are you homeschooled?"

set up vs. setup-
  • set up (verb) means "to cause," "to create," "to put in danger," or "to begin." Ex: She set up a lemonade stand at the end of the driveway. It took time to set up the program.
  • setup (noun) means "position" or "something constructed or contrived." Ex: It was a setup. Ex: The setup looks great. 

some time vs. sometime vs. sometimes-
  • some time (some is an adjective and time is a noun) Ex: I spent some time judging the contest entries.
  • sometime (adverb) means "at an unspecific point in time." Ex: I'll clean my room sometime tomorrow. Or for ex: I went there sometime last May.
  • sometimes (adverb) means "occasionally." Ex: I visit my parents sometimes. Or for ex: I sometimes go to that pizza place on Broadway Avenue.

under way vs. underway-
  • under way (adverb) means "in progress." Ex: The contest is under way. Or for ex: The trip will be under way soon.
  • underway (adjective) means "happening while in motion." Ex: These are the underway activities on the cruise ship.

And don't forget that if you want to vote for your favorite pitches, you only have until noon today before voting closes!


  1. And I was just checking for these in my novella last night. I also stayed up too late doing it... oh, the things you sacrifice to be a writer : )

    1. Sleep is the biggest sacrifice. Agreed!

  2. I've been spending too much time on Word recently - my written spelling is suffering! As Alyson said, oh the sacrifices! But it's worth it ;) thanks for the list!! x

  3. I've been spending a lot of time typing as well. Plus, I don't have school today, so my spelling is probably going to suffer greatly as well. Thanks for the list!

  4. Oh, I'm very careful with these. It drives me nuts when people say "everyday" when they mean "every day" and those similar ones. :P

    1. Same!!! Oh, thank god I'm not the only one. My friends call me "grammar Nazi"

    2. Me too. In eighth grade, I was peer-editing a guy's paper who I particularly disliked, and ... it made him look really bad.

    3. LOL! You guys! Grammar Nazis make fabulous line editors, fyi. :-)

    4. Haha great! I'm actually really considering editor ATM, because I'd like to write but I don't think many people can support themselves on that alone, can they? And I think editing would be really fun, I'm editing my friend's novel-in-progress ATM, and it's still in the writing-publishing business... Sorry, just thinking out loud ;)

  5. Just reading some of this shows me where I've most likely made some errors... but that's a good thing ;)

    1. It is! We all have to learn, and I have a dozen cheat sheets around my computer to remind me of things when I'm in my final rewrite. Without them, I'd forget!

  6. Very interesting :) I'm pinning!