As we all know grammar is constantly evolving and we couldn’t have an example closer to home in the world of book editing than the word proof reading, or is it proofreading?
Since this site was launched the very topic that this particular website was founded to resolve has itself changed.
Let’s look at our particular example. Take the word proofreader is it correct to use it as one word, two words or a hyphenated word.
To clarify the use of this particular technical term comes in three forms:
1) proof reading (spelling is two words).
2) proof – reading (hyphenated compound noun).
3) proofreading (closed spelling as one word).
Originally it was indeed two words however today a Google search reveals that about 48 million search results will come up with the closed spelling form.
Even if you combine see hyphenated words with the use of a two word spelling the result only comes up with about 1.9 million results.
There is a standard pattern for etymological change of words over time, there are several words that have made the change.
In this instance the spelling begins as an open spelling using two words, it then changes to an hyphenated compound noun and finally ends up evolving into as the closed spelling of one word.
Derived words follow the same pattern, for example the word proofreader would have started out as proof reader in two words and then migrated through the hyphenated from to become proofreader in the same way as proofreading.
What is interesting is that today the etymological change occurs much faster with the advent of the Internet and e-mail
In fact today we are often not given the choice, quite often even if you tried to use proof reader as two words AutoCorrect will take over and convert them to what the software deems is the more acceptable version of ‘proofreader.’
You have to ask, “Should software writer be allowed to do that?”