Restoring order: Breakdown vs. break down

There’s been a real collapse in understanding about the difference between these two words.

Breakdown is a noun that means a failure of some sort or to separate for analysis, as in When the bus drivers went on strike, Oakland suffered an entire breakdown in public transportation or A breakdown of demographics shows that in San Jose female residents suffer higher rates of poverty than males.

Break down is a verb meaning to fail or to separate into parts, as in Hopefully, our old car won’t break down during our long trip to San Francisco or Let me break down for you the numbers on water usage in Sacramento.

Remember this basic difference, and all will be in order the next time you write these words.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.