Wednesday, September 28, 2016

A few thoughts on those "tea" words

As some of you know, I work as a line editor and spend part of my week editing fiction “line by line” for clients all over the world. I’ve edited everything from zombie and werewolf books to cozy mysteries, Regency-era romance novels, thrillers, and police procedurals. 

It’s really fun and satisfying work because the authors I’ve met are so grateful for the help, and I enjoy the variety of the books I get to read. I just never know what sort of manuscript is going to land before me next! In the three years that I’ve been editing books, I’ve gotten reacquainted with my dictionary, and since my middle name is Webster—literally, I mean; it’s my maiden name—I quite naturally prefer Merriam-Webster 's dictionary, and the Eleventh Edition is currently the standard in the publishing biz.

Imagine my surprise when I started line editing and discovered I had been spelling some tea words incorrectly! Which ones?

• “Tearoom” looks funny to me, and if you look at the cover of my first book, “Dainty Dining,” it says “tea rooms” because that’s how I preferred to spell it back when I wrote that book. In fact, if I owned a “tearoom,” my sign would probably read “Tea Room.” But if I’m editing a book for someone else, “tearoom” is correct, so I’ve started spelling it that way to remind myself to be consistent. (Just a nice thing to know for those of you who may want to write for publication one day!)

• “Teakettle” is one word. Isn’t that bizarre? I find it a bit odd, but I don’t make the rules; I simply try to follow them.

• “Teapot" is one word and “coffeepot" is one word, but guess what? “Teacup" is one word, but "coffee cup" is two words.

• Finally, "tea bag" is two words, but I wish it weren't. (It helps me to remember that “tea bag” is one of the only tea-ish words I regularly use that is two words.)

So there you have it. And remember: when in doubt, consult the dictionary!


  1. Hmm, guess we type what we want some days. My dictionary and thesaurus sit right beside my laptop yet if we don't realize a word is spelled incorrectly we have to hope spellcheck catches us on it.
    Here's something I'm confused about...some bloggers accomplish something or other and type 'walla'. Is it possible they have mistaken the sound of the French term voila?

    1. You're absolutely right! I occasionally run across that in articles, books, and blogs, and yes, they do say "walla" when they mean "voilà."

  2. We learn new things all the time, don't we? :-)

  3. Thanks for this information. Teakettle may take me time for me to adjust.

  4. Thank you for the tea lesson. English is a funny language.

  5. Hi Angela,
    my daughter is an English major. I am going to print this page and see what she thinks and says!
    Have a great day and thanks for the grammar lesson. I am always in need.

  6. It's perfect your middle name is Webster! Thanks for sharing the "correct" tea-related words.


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