One Word or Two? Use Care When Combining Words

One Word or Two? Use Care When Combining Words

by Kathleen Watson

Brand Branding Strategy Marketing Creative Concept

What’s wrong with the following headline:

How to Setup a Marketing Campaign to Capture More Leads

If you recognized Setup as incorrect (it should be Set Up), you have a better sense of grammar than the person who wrote the headline.

When a verb such as set is used with a preposition such as up, it is called a phrasal verb: set up. Combining a verb with an adverb also creates a phrasal verb, as in cut back.

But when the elements of the phrasal verb are combined and expressed as one word, they create a noun:

set up becomes setup

cut back becomes cutback

break down becomes breakdown

Each of the following examples has two sentences. The first uses a phrasal verb (two words), and the second uses a noun — a single word created by a verb and a preposition. (Exception: cut in No. 4 is followed by the adverb back.)

  1. Please arrive early to set up the room.
    Setup should be done by 3 o’clock.
  2. Guests must check out before 11 a.m.
    Checkout is 11 a.m.
  3. We had to clean up the pavilion after the picnic.
    Cleanup didn’t begin until late afternoon.
  4. We’re going to have to get more exercise and cut back on desserts.
    If you want to lose weight, calorie cutback should be part of your plan.
  5. Businesses that start up with too little capital often fail.
    The startup required SBA financing.
  6. You can sign up for the seminar in room 208.
    Seminar signup ended last week.
  7. I back up my computer daily.
    Do you use the cloud for computer backup?
  8. Please break down the price by material, labor and profit.
    What kind of price breakdown did she provide?
  9. He’s going to fall out of favor with his boss if he misses more work.
    He got fired — the fallout of missing too much work.
  10. If you can stand by for a later flight, you’ll get a discounted fare.
    If you have a flexible schedule, flying standby can save you money.

When you take a shortcut and combine words, take care not to cut short the accuracy of your message.

kathleen-watsonKathleen Watson has nearly three decades of experience as an independent business writer, serving clients in both corporate and academic settings. Her weekly blog, Killer Tips from The Ruthless Editor, offers practical word and punctuation tips, as does her recently published book Grammar For People Who Hate Rules: Killer Tips From The Ruthless Editor. Contact her at:

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1 Response to One Word or Two? Use Care When Combining Words

  1. Laura, I just read your post from a couple of years ago at your “Silly Goofs” link. EXCELLENT.


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