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Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Is the spelling help desk or helpdesk?

A very common situation is whether or not two words should be separated by a space, or joined together as a compound word. The term help desk/helpdesk is one such situation.

A check on the internet of Australian sites (limiting sites to end in .au using Google) returns 12.6 million results for help desk and 379,000 for helpdesk. However, most people aren’t aware of how to limit results to just include sites ending in .au, so if they did the same test without restricting the results, they would get 66.8 million and 73 million respectively. The reverse of the usage in Australia. This is a perfect example of why it isn’t wise to just accept the information you receive from Google, without understanding more about the results you’re seeing.

Microsoft Word accepts both helpdesk and help desk equally, meaning writers using Microsoft Word are often unaware they’re using a secondary spelling variation.

If you check the Macquarie and the Australian Oxford dictionaries, both list help desk as the primary entry and helpdesk as an also entry.

The primary spelling in Australia is therefore help desk, with a space between the two words.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Is the spelling breakeven, break even, or break-even?

It's very common where a word can be used as a compound word, two separate words, or with the two words hyphenated. Sometimes all three can be correct based on your usage, but at other times one or more may be a secondary spelling, or may be incorrect usage.

If we check breakeven, break even and break-even using Google, and limiting sites to sites ending in .au, the number of results returned are: 67,400, 156,000 and 161,000 respectively. The Australian Oxford Dictionary only lists break even. The Macquarie Dictionary lists both break even and break-even. Neither dictionary lists breakeven which indicates breakeven as a compound word may not be correct. Those using Microsoft Word should take care as Word accepts breakeven as a valid spelling.

The Macquarie Dictionary describes break-even as a noun derived from the phrasal verb break even, thus break even is a phrasal verb.  E.g. Usage as a phrasal verb. The company aims to break even by year end. Usage as a noun. The company may never reach break-even. In addition break-even can be used as an adjective. The company needs to know their break-even point.

Whether break-even or break even is used depends on your usage. At least in Australia, breakeven as a compound word, should most likely be considered to be an error.

Kelvin Eldridge

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Is the spelling veranda or verandah?

One of the well known uses of the word verandah is in the song Home Among the Gumtrees, written by Bob Brown and Wally Johnson in 1974 and later recorded by John Williamson. The spelling used was verandah. Today if a person used Microsoft’s Word to write the lyrics, they’d most likely use the spelling veranda, as verandah is not included in the Microsoft spelling dictionary.

According to both the Macquarie and Oxford dictionaries the primary spelling is verandah, with veranda listed as a secondary spelling. For Australian sites (those ending in .au), according to Google the usage of verandah to veranda is approximately 2:1. 

So next time when you’re sitting in an old rocking chair pondering, you’ll know the primary spelling in Australia is verandah ending in an h.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Is the spelling pre recession, prerecession or pre-recession?

If you check the Macquarie and Australian Oxford dictionaries you’ll not find an entry for the spelling pre recession, prerecession or pre-recession. What are you to do if the dictionaries don’t help you?

Often words evolve over time. To-morrow became tomorrow. First, in general, if the word is not in an Australian dictionary, that would indicate the usage has not evolved enough to become a single word. If the hyphenated version doesn’t appear in the dictionary that doesn’t rule it out, but you still don’t know. Don’t fall for the trap of using dictionaries for other countries online as versions of English for different countries may evolve differently over time.

Is the usage of the two words an adjective, or adverb and perhaps should be hyphenated?

Sometimes if in doubt, perhaps the best approach, may be to rewrite the sentence. 

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Is the spelling driver’s licence, drivers’ licence, drivers licence, or driver licence?

Sometimes it’s almost impossible to work out what the correct place an apostrophe should be, or even if it should be used.

Before we answer the above question, let’s first look at visitors book. The visitors book doesn’t belong to a visitor, so there is no possessive apostrophe. In a similar way a licence is a document we acquire when we pass a driving test.

If you visit the VicRoads site you won’t find an apostrophe in drivers licence where it’s used, but more often than not you’ll find driver licence, or licence. However, if you scan the internet you’ll find driver’s licence, drivers licence, driver licence and driving licence. In SA the government site uses driver’s licence. In NSW the government site uses driver licence. In QLD, often licence is used by itself and less often, driver licence.

By not using an ’s’ on the end of driver, the VIC, NSW and QLD government sites avoid the issue with the apostrophe.

In general the spelling should be driver licence without the s and apostrophe, however, often we need to conform to the standards of others. Depending on the state you’re in, you’ll most likely need to check the state’s governing body to see the preferred use or not, of the apostrophe. Alternately, it may be possible rewrite your sentence so no apostrophe is required.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Is the spelling learnt or learned?

OK. This is one where I’ll stand corrected. Until writing this article I’d previously researched and found the spelling learnt was the preferred Australian English spelling, except for the usage of learned for a person with much knowledge pronounced “learn-ed”.  But today that changes. Our language changes over time and at times that means we need to change as well.

When it comes to the spelling of learnt or learned, in the usage such as “I learnt/learned to drive”, the preferred spelling in Australia is learned.

If you check The Australian Oxford Dictionary and the Macquarie Dictionary for the entry “learn”, you’ll find learned appears before learnt in both. The positioning of the word in the entry indicates the preferred usage in Australia.

To confirm the usage in Australia, a search of Google for sites ending in .au (Australian sites), for a phrase such as “l learned to drive” and “I learnt to drive”, returns over 90% of articles using learned compared to learnt.

After reading this article you’ll be able to claim you’re learned in the terms learnt and learned.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Is the spelling “awhile” or "a while"?

Both the spelling ‘awhile” and “a while” are correct. Both mean a period of time. The spelling to use depends on usage. The spelling “awhile” is for an adverb and “a while” for a noun.

An adverb needs a verb, that is a doing word.

Can we stay awhile?

Stay is the verb and awhile is the adverb.

Can we stay for a while?

While is a noun as a period of time, such as an hour or a day.

If you’re struggling with which one to use, a technique that can be useful is substitute a noun such as “day”. The noun “hour” isn’t good as then you’d need to use the word “an”.

Can we stay day.

Makes no sense, so “awhile” is correct.

Can we stay for a day.

Makes sense, so “a while” is correct.

Often in situations like this where usage can be confusing, it may be useful to consider rewriting the sentence, if that makes your life easier and helps your reader.

Kelvin Eldridge
The preferred Australian English spelling.