The Grammarphobia Blog

Worl-dwide English?

Q: A few days ago I saw “worldwide” hyphenated as “worl-dwide” in a book. Is this an artifact of a computer spell-check program?

A: We’ve written before on our blog about some of the oddities of hyphenation, including postings last year on Jan. 15 and July 25.

As we note, hyphenations change, and different publishers may treat the same compound differently.

You’ll find “world-wide” in some places and “worldwide” in others. Generally, as compounds become more familiar over time, they tend to lose  their hyphens. So “world wide” becomes “world-wide” and eventually “worldwide.”

Now, a case like “worl-dwide” is a simple typographical error.

We’d guess that a word the publisher treated as a solid compound (“worldwide”) broke at the end of a line, and the typesetting program wasn’t properly programmed to hyphenate it correctly (“world-wide”).

In most cases, line-break errors in manuscripts are caught by proofreaders before publication. But strays can and do slip through the cracks.

If “worl-dwide” appeared in the middle of a line of text in a book, the error would be more unusual. We can’t begin to guess how that would happen!

A book is one thing, the Internet something else. We googled “worl-dwide” the other day and got 23,000 hits, most of them written as two words. Yikes!

A few examples: “Dhl Worl Dwide Express (Dubai)” … “RATED AS A TOP 10 DJ WORL DWIDE” … “Worl dWide PR.”

We won’t bother with links, since this posting may prod the miscreants to mend the errors of their ways.

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