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Overtime vs. Over Time: Which Is Correct

Overtime vs. over time: these two terms that are easily confused. One is a compound word, while the other is a verb phrase.

Spell-check in most word processing software programs wouldn’t notice a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check’s job is to look for words that aren’t in its dictionary or words that resemble words in its dictionary but are spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect so it doesn’t know and can’t guess the word you wanted or what word you meant to use, it can only judge what words are on the page. If you’ve spelled everything correctly, it won’t flag anything as a mistake.

Autocorrect will suggest words that start with the same letters. It suggests what word you may want to save time, but its recommendations are often pretty off base. They won’t help you out, but they will make you laugh.

Overtime (pronounced “oh-vuhr-tie-mm”) is a noun meaning time worked over an agreed-upon schedule. For many US citizens, 40 hours a week is full-time work. If they are classified as hourly (not salaried) employees, they would be paid overtime for the extra hours.

Over Time (pronounced “oh vuhr” “tie-mm”) is a prepositional phrase of two different words.

  • Over, in this case, means “spanning” or “covering”
  • Time means hours, days, weeks, or years.

A preposition is a word that provides more information about a position in time or physical location concerning other things. Before, above, beyond, and around are examples of prepositions.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Rachel was anxious to travel, but she had just started a new job. The odds of working overtime as a new employee were unlikely. She didn’t know enough about the position and workflow to be tasked with extra work just yet. She would have to be patient: put in many weeks, learn all she could, and acquire vacation days, or paid time off, over time.

Here is another example with visual aid.

A graphic using both over time (over a period of time) and overtime (working above the agreed-upon hours

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By Connie Fisher

Connie Fisher is a freelance writer and editor specializing in business writing and marketing. She holds a bachelor's degree in media and journalism and has contributed to a slew of printed and online media, including Contra Costa Times, Daily American, the The Tri-Town News,, and many more.

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