Do I Search for database, data-base or data base?

    April 19, 2005

There are quite a few compound words that are sometimes found combined into one word, sometimes separated into multiple words and sometimes connected together with a hyphen. If you are searching for one of these words, is it important which format you use to search?

You bet it is, if you don’t want to miss anything.

First off, let’s make sure we all understand the types of conditions I’m talking about. I don’t know about other languages, but the English language can be very confusing in its seemingly arbitrary spelling of compound words and phrases.

A word phrase can be spelled as a solid compound, a hyphenated compound or spaced words. Do you spell it database, data base or data-base, website, web site or web-site, fundraiser, fund raiser or fund-raiser? There are hundreds of words and phrases that are like this.

And then there are the acronyms or made up sets of letters/words that have an irregular use of the hyphen. Take for example the Apple operating system OS X. Or is it OSX or OS-X? There is obviously one preferred usage, developed by Apple, but it doesn’t mean everyone spells it that way.

So, how do you search for these? You don’t want to miss anything, and you certainly don’t want to perform three searches. You also don’t want to have to tale the time to build a query with the OR operator.

If you were to perform the search as spaced words, such as [left handed], you’ll get pages with left handed’ and left-handed’, but no lefthanded’. If you search for [lefthanded] you’ll only get lefthanded’.

But, if you search for [left-handed] you get it all!

ANSWER: Always search for compound words with the hyphen and you’ll pull up pages that may use all three variations.

This technique doesn’t seem to be documented anywhere in the Google help pages. I was given the tip by reader “Herr Theoretiker”.

Mark Fleming is the founder of a new blog called Google Tutor & Advisor. Google Tutor & Advisor offers in-depth Tips, Techniques and Advice for Google Users.

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