I Just Need Some Spaaace(s)

You’re scrolling down your Instagram feed, and you see a picture of your roommate with her new coworkers. She talks all the time about how great they are, and you’re so happy she’s found a group of people she really clicks with and a workplace environment that she can thrive in. The double-tap is a no-brainer—until you glance at the caption. “I’m so thankful to be apart of this team!” it declares enthusiastically. And you know that you might be the only person in the world who actually reads Instagram captions, but it still makes you hesitate, because the all-too-common omission of that single space between a and part does a funny thing: it changes the entire meaning of the sentence.

Sometimes I like to imagine that somewhere in the hallowed halls of academia, ancient English department chairs get together to discuss language conventions that no one in the real world actually cares about, like whether to use a double space after a period in formal writing. While this may or may not really be going on, the space is losing ground in places where it’s truly necessary—and AutoCorrect can’t always be to blame.

Way back in 2010, Allie of Hyperbole and a Half explained the pitfalls of omitting spaces between words; namely, you might end up evoking mental images of giant wooly mammoth-type creatures instead of effectively communicating your point. The stakes are a little higher here in 2017—leave out a space, and you might turn a verb into a noun or indicate your estrangement from a group that in reality you belong to.

Let’s get at least one thing straight here: a part means “something determined in relation to something that includes it,” while apart means “in a state of separation, of exclusion, or of distinction, as to purpose, use, or character” (thefreedictionary.com). That single space makes the difference between inclusion and exclusion. Choose wisely.

Some other words that often lose their distinction as two words, and change their meaning as a result of this senseless war on spaces: everyday, anymore, anyway, awhile, workout, anytime. I won’t bore you with the breakdown (there’s another one actually) of how a space changes the way each of those word(s) function(s), because I know there are very few people in the world for whom this kind of grammar hairsplitting generates interest, and fewer still for whom it triggers strong emotion. But when you’re writing your next Instagram caption, I hope maybe you’ll pause and ask yourself, “But do I mean workout as a noun, or work out as a verb?”

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