How to spell English compounds

When should I use the CompSpell spelling strategy?

My spelling strategy works quite well for compounds that are hard to spell – like those that the dictionaries disagree on, but where one spelling is still more common than the other two. For example, check+list came up four times with the spelling checklist, twice as check list and was never hyphenated in my dictionaries. This means that spelling it as a single word (which my strategy suggests) is a good solution. For difficult compounds, the CompSpell strategy picks the most likely spelling in 59% to 61% of cases. This result is slightly better than that of two highly educated English native speakers that I tested – and a lot better than guessing.

However, this strategy is only intended as a support when your intuition fails you. If you have a strong feeling that a compound word should be spelled in a particular way, then trust your feeling. Alternatively, you may also want to use an up-to-date trustworthy dictionary.

If my strategy suggests a spelling that does not feel right, check my exception principles, which describe the spelling tendencies for particular types of compound.

One huge advantage of my strategy is that you can apply it offline very easily yourself, without having to check any information online or in a book. Learn how to spell English compounds in no more than three steps by watching a short video clip.

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