Compound Words

Got a couple of questions from the Peanut Gallery today, which I will answer in separate Tips of the Day.

Herman writes: “Thanks for adding the topic to the subject line of your emails for easy recall. What are the rules for combination words such as those in the list below? How can I determine if the correct use is the combined word and not the word split into two (e.g., wellsite vs. well site)? These seem to be single nouns rather than a noun with a descriptor. Can I use them spelled like this and update my MS Word dictionary?

Wellsite or drillsite

Flowline or groupline












“Finally, as a self-professed word geek, you might appreciate this Winston Churchill quote: ‘Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put.’

I noted that ‘self’ is not included in your table of joined prefixes below. As such, did I use it properly in the sentence above? Also, I use and/or quite a bit. Is this usage correct?”

I’ll answer the first part about compound words today, then follow up with separate diatribes on hyphenated prefixes, dangling prepositions, and “and/or” later this week.

Compound words are words composed of two or more components that are also words. Most of the nouns that are common to the oil industry are non-hyphenated compound words, like those listed above. (Note: “whereas” is a conjunction.)

The EPRI Style Guide defines compound words as follows:

“A compound noun or adjective consisting of a short verb plus a word that normally functions as a preposition or an adverb is usually solid, unless a hyphen is needed for readability,” i.e, so vowels don’t bump up against each other, as in “tie-in.”

Examples: runoff, breakdown

The SPE Style Guide has a long list of common oilfield words that include many compound nouns. Just remember that the general idea is to take up as little space as possible to say what you want to say.

The German language does compound words the best! The current champion compound word is the name of a law that has to do with how beef is labeled:


Here it is broken into parts:


Beef- meat  – label     – ing  -over-watch      –    task     -over-give-ing  -law          


Beef labeling oversight transfer law

That’s twice as long as my former favorite from the movie Mary Poppins:


Stay tuned for answers to Herman’s other questions….

(Don’t you just love a good cliffhanger?)


2 Responses to “Compound Words”

  1. Rhonda Says:

    How do you deal with ‘lifecycle’? My dictionary has it as two words, but I prefer one.

  2. Jeanne Perdue Says:

    SPE Style Guide says life cycle is two words. That’s what I go by.

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