Those Confounded Compounds

Do compound words confound you? For instance, when do you use everyday and when is it every day? Or the one I struggle with most–awhile. Or is it a while? As usual, the answer is: It depends.

Awhile is an adverb meaning a short period of time. It should be used with a verb.

She stopped working awhile and had a cup of tea.

A while (two words) can mean any length of time and acts as a noun.

She stopped working for a while and had a cup of tea.

Unfortunately, you’ll see awhile misused in the press. Ignorance? To save print space? Who knows.

Words like everyday or anytime are used as adjectives.

Red wine vinegar is her everyday vinegar.

Words like Every day and any day are two words when used as adverbs.

She uses red wine vinegar every day.
She uses red wine vinegar any time she wants to make salad dressing.

Everywhere is an adverb, and everyone is a pronoun. When it comes to compound words, the rules vary, which is why I said “it depends.”

She looked everywhere for the grammar guide.
She gave everyone a copy of the guide.

Bottom line: Be aware of your parts of speech when choosing words. Think about how the word functions in the sentence. When all else fails, consult a good dictionary.

Now, I’ll get back to my writing for a while. ☺