By Jennifer Copley (Last Updated, November 26, 2013)
Many people don’t know whether the following words should be one word or two. In most cases, the single-word and two-word forms have different meanings. However, in a few cases, only one form is correct and the other is not a real word.
Wilfred had seen that episode of Spongebob Squarepants six times already, but he never grew tired of it.
All ready: prepared
The children are all ready for the water balloon fight.
Altogether: entirely, completely, on the whole
Lily was not altogether sure that she had retrieved every one of Billy’s frogs from Lorne’s tuba.
All together: collectively, all at once, all in a single place
They were all together in the spoon museum when Fred made his big announcement.
Always: forever, every time
Sylvia always went to the park on Tuesday afternoons to paint portraits of squirrels.
All ways: by every direction or method
Larry had tried all ways he knew to get the computer working again, including shouting at it, cursing, and banging on the keyboard.
Anymore: any longer, nowadays
Morris never goes spelunking anymore.
Any more: any additional
Kelly was too full to eat any more food at the buffet, so she filled her pockets with spring rolls and shrimp for later and made her way out to the lobby.
Onto: on top of, to a position on, aware of
Marvin jumped onto the table and danced a jig on the giant plate of mashed potatoes.
Felicity walked onto the dance floor and began throwing kumquats at all the happy couples.
Norbert threw his food onto the floor and demanded diplomatic immunity.
Consuela was onto Morton’s schemes, most of which involved marmots.
On to: onward, forward (often indicates shifting to a different activity or place)
Millicent usually moved on to the next project without finishing the prior one, so her half-completed broccoli sculptures were often left to rot.
Along: positioned, extending, or moving horizontally on something; in the course of; traveling the length of
Nellie walked along the dusty road in search of cupcakes.
The corridor that ran along the periphery of the building led to a room where a sad clown sat reading existentialist poetry.
Billy and Tori traveled for many years and met plenty of interesting monkeys along the way.
A long: indicates great length
It was a long book compared to his usual reading fare, but Colonel Mustard was determined to find out how the cat in the hat and the children would deal with that spot.
Andy took a long time getting ready because he didn’t really want to attend Aunt Florence’s Lamppost Appreciation Society meeting.
Into: refers to an entry into something (a building, a profession, an agreement, trouble), the changing of form, making physical contact (bumping into something), or a reference to passing time; informally, it can also indicate interest (Jane is into clog dancing), but this colloquialism should not be used in formal writing
Gerald was transformed into a superhero after he was bitten by a radioactive dung beetle.
Nora crashed into the fence because there were three beanie babies jammed under her brake pedal.
Elton’s speech about the dangers of pointy things lasted far into the night.
Maya was not far into her project when Bobby showed up with his talking ferret.
In to: use in to in situations where into isn’t appropriate. For example:
The criminal who had stolen Willa’s pork chops turned himself in to the police a few hours later. (He gave himself up to the police.)
Marlene ran from the flaming building, but when she reached the street, she realized that she had left her donuts inside, so she ran back in to retrieve them. (Here, to relates to her purpose, to retrieve).
Anyway: despite what has been stated previously, regardless
Bert wears a badger costume wherever he goes, but Abigail loves him anyway.
Any way: any manner, any approach (if you can add in before any way and it makes sense, use two words):
Anastasia vowed to get revenge in any way she could after Milton covered her sofa with whipped cream.
(Note: anyways is not a word)
Awhile: for some time
He read awhile before heading out to the monster truck rally.
Awhile is an adverb, so you could replace it with another adverb; for example:
He read quickly.
A while: a period of time
It has been a while since Polly and her parrot Mr. Crackers came to visit.
While is a noun in this case, so you could replace it with another noun and the sentence will still make sense; for example:
It has been a year since Polly and Mr. Crackers came to visit.
Everyone: refers to a group collectively
Everyone left the building when Jem showed up with her six pet skunks.
Every one: distinguishes individuals within a group
Every one of Milt’s coworkers was furious about the lack of donuts in the break room.
Alot is not a word. A lot (meaning a large amount) is always correct. (Allot means to give someone a portion of something to have or use).
All right means satisfactory, adequate, or permissible. Alright is not a word in the formal sense, though it is often used in informal writing these days.
There is a lot of disagreement on this one. Some say it’s fine to use either as long as you use it consistently. Others distinguish between the two, using health care as a noun and healthcare as an adjective:
Health care is important to Nathan because he loves to skydive and has a pet porcupine.
Nathan needs a good healthcare plan because he has a higher risk of injury than most people.
Lineup: a noun that refers to a queue of people waiting for something
There was a lineup to buy tickets for the Musical Canine Freestyle event.
Line up: a verb that refers to the act of lining up
They lined up for the new Bucket of Mystery Meat special at Pete’s House of Protein.
Longtime: an adjective that means longstanding, having lasted over many years
Ichabod’s longtime friendship with Bertha came to an abrupt end when they fought over the last slice of bacon.
Long time: an adjective + noun that means an extensive or protracted period of time
The argument with her boss lasted for a long time, but Maeve eventually won the right to bring her pet flamingo to work.
Anyone: a noun meaning anybody
Anyone can sing badly, but only a few have the opportunity to do it in front of a large television audience.
Any one: an adjective + noun that means any single one
Any one of the alligators could have eaten Mrs. Johnson’s hat.
- Brians, P. (n.d.). “Into/In To.” Washington State University, Public.WSU.edu.
- Casagrande, J. (2006). Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies: A Guide to Language tor Fun and Spite. Penguin, New York.
- Fogarty, M. (2010). “‘All Right‘ Versus ‘Alright'”
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (2013). Merriam-Webster, Incorporated. Merriam-Webster.com.
- Oxford Dictionaries. (2013). “Onto or on to?” Oxford University Press, OxfordDictionaries.com.
- Student Success Center Peer Writing Tutors at the University of Houston-Victoria. (2008). “Using Anyway and Any Way.” Grammatically Correct. UHV.edu.