What To Do With 'W'


Every Wednesday, Editing for Grammarphobes 2.0 features handy tips to enhance all of our writing, from daily emails to articles to books. After all, everyone needs to write, right?

We haven’t done a roundup on a specific letter lately, so let’s talk about W, the one that kept me at the back of the room in grade school despite being short thanks to the wonderful convention of alphabetical order teachers were so fond of using back then.

But I’m not bitter.

Many useful words begin with our friend, the W, including weather and weapons. Since each of those has a specific subset of their own words, we will cover them in more detail in November. Today, let’s discuss run-of-the-mill words that start with the letter, W. 

waitlist (n.) and wait-list (v.)

Words that make college seniors quake with anxiety, if you are talking about the noun, then it’s one word, waitlist. If you are wait-listed, the verb, the word is hyphenated, according to the Associated Press Stylebook (AP Style).

walk-up (n. and adj.) and walk up (v.)

The adjective that describes an apartment above the ground floor in a building with no elevators is a walk-up apartment with a hyphen. Same goes for the walk-up window at a bank, according to Merriam-Webster online.

The noun, walk-up, also is hyphenated. Sometimes people leave out the word, “apartment,” in the phrase walk-up apartment, so it’s just walk-up.

The verb form, like to walk up to something, is merely two words. No hyphen necessary.

washed-up (adj.)

This surprised me. For some reason, I never realized when you use the adjective meaning “no longer successful, skillful, popular, or needed,” it should be hyphenated. Both Merriam-Webster and AP Style agree.

wastebasket (n.)

One word.

web and website

Although short for the World Wide Web, web needn’t be capitalized, nor does website, unless it is a part of a proper noun.

well-to-do (adj.)

This phrase, meaning “prosperous,” requires both hyphens, even if standing on its own without a noun to modify.

West, Western, west, western

AP Style states the “West (capitalized) covers the 13-state region as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau and broken up into two divisions. The Mountain division states are Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. The five Pacific division states are Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.

Regarding western as a genre, AP Style suggests it is capitalized when referring to a film or book genre, but lowercased for “music better known as country.”


Notice that the apostrophe is missing in between the t and the s in this messaging app’s name, and the words run together. Don’t know if I’m a fan of that, being a grammar nerd and all, but since it allows me to easily text with my son in Scotland without outrageous roaming fees, I’ll let it slide.

whistleblower or whistle-blower?

Here’s one where you need to know what style your editor for the publication because it’s one word in AP Style, but Merriam-Webster, the default of Chicago Manual of Style users most of the time, lists it as hyphenated.

For those of you who aren’t writing for a specific publication, I’d go with the Merriam-Webster way, so hyphenate it.


One word in every source.

Join me next week for some spooky Halloween grammar fun. Hint: It just might involve the Headless Horseman…

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These books are on my desk at all times. Maybe they'll help you as well.

The Associated Press Stylebook, 2017 edition

The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition
Strunk and White's The Elements of Style


A professional writer/editor for almost 30 years, Karen Wojcik Berner's wide and varied experience includes such topics as grammar, blog content, book reviews, corporate communications, the arts, paint and coatings, real estate, the fire service, writing and literature, research, and publishing. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women's Fiction Writers, Naperville magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of the Bibliophiles series, contemporary fiction with a sprinkling of the classics, and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association. For more information on Karen, please visit www.karenberner.com.


R. Doug Wicker said…
I would have blown both washed-up and whistle-blower. Good article!
It gets confusing sometimes. Before I did the research, I honestly thought whistleblower was always hyphenated no matter what. It just made sense to me. Who knew, right?
Hyphenations can be so confusing to remember. I look everything up to verify.

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