Filed under: Writing.
The American Heritage English Dictionary says it’s two words: “light bulb.”
Random House Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary says it’s two words: “light bulb.”
But Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary says it’s one word: “lightbulb.”
When a book is being copyedited, the copyeditor must specify which dictionary he or she is conforming to, unless (a) the publisher specifies one, or (b) the author specifies one. But regardless of who chooses it, all spellings in a given book are supposed to conform to a single dictionary’s usage (and, yes, I know: Emerson was probably right when he said, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds”).
I always specify in my notes to the copyeditor the one I’m using, and when I was at Tor I got into the habit of specifying Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (first the 10th edition, now the 11th, known in the trade as Web 10 and Web 11 respectively), which was that publisher’s preference, and I’ve carried that over to the WWW trilogy.
And so in Watch, the one and only reference to an incandescent lighting device is going to be spelled as a single word (even though it looks wrong to me). But, man, you’d think we’d have no ambiguity about such a common term at this late date!