I am international engineering student studying in US. I have a question regarding words that are created as a result of joining two words. Usually this happens when two technologies or methodologies are used to create something unique (I am particularly interested in fusion of two words based on abstract ideas or technology). The confusion I have currently is "How to decide the proper word fusion?"

For example: Testbed vs test bed, feedforward vs feed forward vs feed-forward, etc.

I have this confusion because certain authors use certain fusion words. I would like to know if there is a universal rule or any guidance when I have to combine two words indicating abstract concepts.

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    Sadly, no. Some words are always written open (test bed), some are always written hyphenated (test-bed), some are always written closed (testbed)—and a lot are written in two or even all three ways, depending on whom you ask. It’s a mess. You just have to use what seems most common in the context you’re using it. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 8 '15 at 17:27

We call the "single words" you're talking about compound words.

It sounds like you're torn between creating closed and open compound words. The way to choose is to look at what other people are doing. The English language is always being reshaped by how we use it, so while "living room" might be two words today, who knows what will happen in 10 years!

In technical writing, readability always comes first. Choose whatever you think will make your writing more clear and understandable.

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Compounding or composition is the process of word formation that creates compound lexemes. That is, in familiar terms, compounding occurs when two or more words are joined to make one longer word.
The meaning of the compound may be similar to or different from the meanings of its components in isolation. The component stems of a compound may be of the same part of speech—as in the case of the English word footpath, composed of the two nouns foot and path—or they may belong to different parts of speech, as in the case of the English word blackbird, composed of the adjective black and the noun bird.

Formation of compounds
Compound formation rules vary widely across language types. Compounds can be rather long when translating technical documents from English to some other language, since the lengths of the words are theoretically unlimited, especially in chemical terminology.

endocentric: A+B denotes a special kind of B
Eg: darkroom, smalltalk
exocentric: A+B denotes a special kind of an unexpressed semantic head
Eg: skinhead, paleface (head: 'person')
copulative: A+B denotes 'the sum' of what A and B denot
Eg: bittersweet, sleepwalk
appositional: A and B provide different descriptions for the same referent
Eg: actor-director, maidservant

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    The question is about regular compounds, not portmanteaus. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jul 8 '15 at 17:24
  • feedforward is a "regular" compound? – TRomano Jul 8 '15 at 21:49

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