Word closure

May 9, 2009

An obvious way that words and their usage are changing is how many of them are just skipping the hyphenation stage between being two words and going straight to a single word.

Some industries, in particular, are shortening what used to be two words into one, even if the rest of the world and its dictionaries haven’t caught up.

For example, ‘To log in’ (verb) is now being written by some in computing circles as ‘To login’. I still use the two word form here as I believe that ‘login’ is an adjective or noun. And large corporates are using ‘signoff’ quite regularly.

Other words I notice in my work that seem to be facing closure:

  • Standalone (stand alone, or stand-alone)
  • Shutdown (shut down)
  • Breakdown (break down)
  • Layout (lay out)
  • Setup (set up)
  • Backup (back up)
  • Lifecycle (life cycle or life-cycle)
  • Signoff (sign off, or sign-off)
  • Startup (start up, start-up)
  • Online (on line, on-line)
  • Offline (off line, off-line)
  • Onsite (on site, on-site)
  • Offsite (off site/off-site)
  • Standby (stand by, stand-by)
  • Offset (off set, off-set)
  • Ongoing (on going)
  • Runtime (run time, run-time)
  • Downtime (down time, down-time)
  • Byproduct (by product, by-product)

My preference is still to use two words where it is a verb form, though I must admit that I think I have used ‘to backup’!

Older dictionaries will have separate words for many of these, but more recent dictionaries may offer the closed word as a non-preferred alternative. For example, The Macquarie Dictionary (4th edition) — one of Australia’s dictionary — has:

  • ‘stand-alone’ as the adjective (no other choices)
  • ‘shutdown’ (noun); ‘shut down’ (verb)
  • ‘layout’ (noun); ‘lay out’ (verb)
  • ‘set-up’ (noun and adjective); ‘set up’ (verb)
  • ‘backup’ (noun and adjective), with ‘back-up’ as an alternative; ‘back up’ (verb)
  • ‘life cycle’ (noun)
  • ‘sign-off’ and ‘sign off’ (noun); ‘sign off’ (verb)
  • ‘start-up’ ( noun and adjective), with ‘startup’ as an alternative; ‘start up’ (verb)

Interestingly, the dictionary is not consistent in how it treats words with a similar structure — look at the differences between the ‘up’ words: ‘set-up’ and ‘start-up’ but ‘backup’ for the noun and adjectival forms. No wonder it’s hard for the rest of us to agree when even in the one dictionary they don’t agree.

See also:

[Links last checked November 2011]


  1. Enjoyed the article. By the way, the word “Lifecycle” is hyperlinked, but the link comes up broken. Thought you should know.

  2. That link is fixed now, Craig. Not sure what happened…

  3. You’re welcome. At least you know someone is reading your material. Grin.

  4. […] Lifecycle (life cycle or life-cycle) […]      by Word closure « CyberText Newsletter May 11, 2009 at 11:06 […]

  5. […] Word closure: https://cybertext.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/word-closure/ […]

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