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It’s been a while! (Did you notice how I didn’t say awhile?). Sometimes one pesky little space between letters can make a meaningful difference between its one-word counterpart. Remember my episode on apart vs. a part? This difference is very obvious because they mean very different things (Need a refresher? Although we are worlds apart, I love being a part of this team). But oftentimes the difference can be much more subtle. In this episode, I explain some of the less clear-cut pairs that could be one or two words. As always, watch the video or follow along below.

Everyday vs. Every day

I don’t think there’s a wider-spread grammatical error to be found online than this one right here. I see it every day. Multiple times a day. Huge companies and verified accounts and public figures in government just cannot seem to get this one right.

It’s TWO words — every SPACE day — most of the time we say it. The only time it’s one word is when it is an adjective describing something, as in “This loungewear set is my everyday outfit” or “It’s an everyday occurrence.” On the contrary, “I wear this loungewear set every day” and “I am grateful for coffee every day” are correct.

My test? Can you add a word between every and day? If you can, it MUST be TWO words. “I wear this loungewear set every single day.” Please, y’all. I beg you to stop slashing these poor, poor spaces.

Alot vs. A lot

Alot is not a word. It’s a lot. There is a word — allot — as in “We allot everyone four weeks of paid vacation a year.” To which we’d say, “Wow … that’s a lot! Thanks a lot!”

Alright vs. All right

You might be surprised to learn that it is NEVER all right to use alright, although you will see it frequently. It is always two words: all right. “But Zoe,” you ask, “no one ever taught me that! And what about the other examples where all + ____  like already, altogether, and always!?”

Funny you should ask. Words evolve throughout time. Those three examples, as singular words, create different meanings than “all ready,” “all together” and “all ways” if you really think about it. They HAVE to be one word sometimes. But all right is perfectly fine as two words. It does not need to be one.

Awhile vs. A while

This one is trickier. Awhile is an adverb meaning for a while, and it only works if it makes sense to replace it with that three-word phrase.

“Stay awhile” = “Stay for a while”
“We waited awhile to get in” = “We waited for a while to get in”

The cool thing about this one is that, when in doubt, you can always keep it two words and no one will consider it wrong. “Stay a while” and “We waited a while to get in” are also correct.

If for a while wouldn’t work in its place, it is probably a noun, not an adverb, so it should be two words: a while. Let’s test it. “We have a while left to wait” would sound strange as “We have for a while left to wait” and “I saw her a while ago” does not work as “I saw her for a while ago.” A while is correct in those cases because while functions as a noun. It’s a period of time. Nouns are always the two-word version!

Anytime vs. Any time

Anytime is an adverb: “Call me anytime” is correct just as “Call me frequently” is correct. It has to be two words in instances like “The cicadas could descend upon us at any time” and “Do you have any time to chat today?” Here’s a trick: can you change anytime to often? If the answer is yes, you can use anytime as one word. When in doubt, use any time as two words.

Ahold vs. A hold

Ahold is a variant of the noun hold, as in “I tried to get ahold of you yesterday.” If you mean it as an actual or metaphorical grip on something, it is two words: “Get a hold of the leash or she’ll run away.” Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me” is correct because he’s talking about a grip.

This is another place you can employ my super easy test. If you can insert an adjective between a and hold, it must stay as two words. “You really got a BIG hold on me!”

Someplace vs. Some place

While “I want to go someplace warm” is technically correct, this compound word hasn’t caught on as much as other combinations like somewhere and someone. For now, some place is the safer bet.

Standby vs. Stand by

If you’re waiting for someone to call you, you’re on standby. It’s two words if you’re using it as a verb phrase. “We will no longer just stand by and allow this treatment.”

Workout vs. Work out

A workout is one word when it is a noun that means an exercise session or an adjective that describes such a session: “That workout was hard” or “Those workout clothes are cute.” Use two words if it’s a verb phrase and you mean to exercise, like “let’s go work out today!”

I hope this list — albeit incomplete — helps clarify some of the trickier pairs of one-word and two-word phrases that can trip us up. I’m here to help you get a little better every freakin’ day.

Freshen up on Grammar Guru Zoe’s previous episodes!

Grammar Shape-Up Series: Apart vs. A Part
Grammar Shape-Up Series: Fewer vs. Less
Grammar Shape-Up Series: “Couldn’t Care Less”
Lay vs. Lie: Are You Using Them Correctly?
Apostrophes: Are You Over- Or Underusing Them?
FYI: The Acronyms You Need To Know
5 Words You’re Probably Using Incorrectly
3 Rules You’re Likely Breaking


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