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Is Roller Skating One Word or Two? Roller Skate Grammar 101

When it comes to grammar in the English language, there are a lot of rules and many of them are unclear, to put it nicely. Roller Skate and Roller Skating are words that seem to be spelled differently everywhere you look. Let's take a look at these two terms and the rules that govern their usage.

As a general rule, Roller Skate as a noun, "This is my roller skate", it is most correct to use two words, not hyphenated. If you are using the term as a verb- "I am roller-skating", it is most correct to add a hyphen. This is because it is considered a compound verb and the hyphen shows that meaning is derived from the two words being used together.

The term "Roller Skate" doesn't require fancy grammar to show it's meaning.

You will see the terms Roller Skate, Roller Skating, Roller Skater, etc used in all grammatical forms. There are many possible reasons for this, but one stands out from the rest:

The meaning of the words roller skate will be understood no matter how you present them grammatically. Look at these examples of verbs whose meaning could be misunderstood without the hyphen:

"Dry Cleaning is best for wool jackets." Most people would understand what is being said, but if you were unfamiliar with what dry cleaning was, you could take this sentence to mean that you should find a dry way of cleaning your wool jacket.

On the other hand...

"Dry-Cleaning is best for wool jackets." The hyphen makes it clear that the two words are connected and that their meaning comes from them having been used together.

Roller Skating, however, passes the test in all of it's forms:

"Roller Skating is a great way to exercise."

"Roller-Skating is a great way to exercise."

"Rollerskating is a great way to exercise."

All of these examples make the same meaning clear to the reader, even if some may be more technically correct than others. Roller Skate is a term that doesn't have alternate meanings, it would be difficult for people to misunderstand it's meaning, even if you used a less technically correct form, such as rollerskate.

Spell check tends to lean toward common usages

The grammar rules tell us one thing, but spell check and programs such as Grammerly tell us another. As you can see in the photos below, I typed three different forms of both the noun and the verb usage into Grammerly and the only one that got the red squiggly lines was the usage of rollerskate as a noun as one word.

This tells us that, even though it might not be the best "technical" form, most forms are common enough in everyday usage that they will be acceptable and understood.

If you are ever unsure about what is right, you can turn to a free site like Grammarly, ( I am not an affiliate, it's just awesome and free!), or simply type the term you are wondering about into Google Docs, Word, or any word processing program. They will let you know if you are using an acceptable form or offer suggestions for a better way write it.

What about capitalization?

The words roller skater are not technically proper nouns, so you wouldn't automatically capitalize them. If you were speaking of a Roller Skater, you could capitalize the term to indicate that it is a title you are giving them or that they use themselves, but you don't technically have to. There aren't hard and fast rules about when to capitalize words that are not titles, names, or proper nouns, but here are a few good practices to think about:

Roller Derby? Capitalize if you are talking about a player, team or league, but not if you are just using the term more generally.

"Roller Derby star Bruiser is playing tonight's bout." Capitalized to show respect to the player.

"I am going to play roller derby." Not capitalized because no person or team is mentioned.

Roller Rink? Same idea here. Capitalize if you are referring to the name of a rink, but not if you are just talking about a rink in general. Double word terms like this can seem awkward if they are at the beginning of a sentence, where you have to capitalize one word but not the other, but that would be the correct choice. Have a look below:

"The Bayview Roller Rink is my favorite." Capitalized because it's the name of a rink.

"I am going to the roller rink." Not capitalized because it's not the name of a rink, it's just rink in general.

"Roller rink snacks are the best." Roller is capitalized here because it's the first word in the sentence, rink is not capitalized.

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