October 12, 2015

Apostrophe Abuse



One Smith, two Smiths. One Morelli, two ...? Just because a word ends with a vowel doesn't mean you use an apostrophe to make it plural. Here's the full story. (Spoiler alert: It's Morellis.)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Click player above to listen to the podcast

  • Share

'Log In' vs. 'Login' and Other One-word-or-two Dilemmas
Posted by June on October 12, 2015


Some people struggle with words like login/login. Should it be one word or two, they wonder.

According to the Associated Press Stylebook, “login” is a noun and “log in” is a verb. So, if you're following AP style, you use your login to log in. Piece of cake.

The Chicago Manual of Style doesn’t have an entry for "login." And neither Webster’s New World College Dictionary nor Merriam-Webster’s includes a listing for the word. So documents edited in Chicago style should use the two-word "log in" for both the noun and the verb.

The “login” situation is a good guide for other one-word-vs.-two-word conundrums. Often, the noun form is one word and the verb is two words. Take “lineup”/ “line up”: You tell all the players in the lineup to line up on the field. All three of the above sources agree on this one.

Here are some other stumpers that are easily solved simply by applying the noun-is-one-word formula:

makeup / make up – One word as a noun meaning composition or construction: the patient’s psychological makeup. Also one word as a noun meaning cosmetics (though American Heritage also allows “make up.”) Two words when a verb.

backup / back up – One word as a noun or adjective referring to an accumulation (The sink overflowed because of all the backup) or a form of support (Chief, call for backup). Two words as a verb.

workout / work out – One word as a noun, two as a verb.

pickup / pick up – Whether you're talking about a truck, a UPS man fetching a package you want delivered, or succeeding with a romantic prospect, the noun is one word and the verb two.

giveaway / give away – One word as a noun, two words as a verb.

signoff / sign off – Ditto above. One word as a noun, two as a verb.

leftover / left over - Ditto that ditto. One word as a noun, two as a verb.

And, by the way, nouns can function as adjectives. So if you have a makeup case, a pickup time, a backup plan, a workout routine, or lineup changes, those are all one word.


June Casagrande is a writer and journalist whose weekly grammar/humor column, “A Word, Please,” appears in community newspapers in California, Florida, and Texas. more

The Best Punctuation Book, Period

A Comprehensive Guide for Every Writer, Editor, Student, and Businessperson

The most comprehensive punctuation guide ever, “The Best Punctuation Book, Period” doesn’t just cover the basic rules. It delves into gray areas of punctuation left unclear by the other rule books, showing how the rules differ in four different editing styles. There's also an A to Z reference of commonly mispunctuated terms. more

Grammar Snobs Are Great Big Meanies

A Guide to Language for Fun and Spite

What do suicidal pandas, doped-up rock stars, and a naked Pamela Anderson have in common? They’re all a heck of a lot more interesting than reading about predicate nominatives and hyphens. June Casagrande knows this and has invented a whole new twist on the grammar book. more

Mortal Syntax

Mortal Syntax takes on the 101 most frequently attacked usage choices. Dedicating one short chapter to each, Casagrande brings her subject to life, teaching English usage through lively and amusing personal anecdotes. more

It Was the Best of Sentences, It Was the Worst of Sentences

Your story may be brilliant. Your insights may be groundbreaking. Your characters may be so real you can almost touch them. But they're not worth a thing if you can't bring them to life in well-written sentences. more

  • Sneaked vs. Snuck

    Lana M imho the "snuck" form of "sneak" is modeled on the "stuck" form of "stick" and the "struck" form of "strike" -- as if people adopted a variant standard for conjugation for short words that start with "s".

  • Loan vs. Lend

    June Billy Jay: Characters in novels can speak any way the author wants them to -- proper or not. And even the most educated speakers often use "loan" as a verb meaning "lend." I'd say that's fine in almost any context, but especially in character dialogue.

  • Loan vs. Lend

    Billy Jay So, in other words, if I'm writing a novel and I want to check it for the grammar of my descriptive writing in the book, I should use the verb "loan" regarding money and "lend" regarding objects? However, in the conversational dialogues of the characters of my novel, it's okay for me to use the verbs "loan" and "lend" interchangeably?

  • Which Word Governs the Verb?

    June Mike: A confession. I try not to let stuff peeve me. But that one gets me, too!

  • 'Baited' Breath

    June Carina: Yes, if everyone uses "baited" for "bated," eventually that usage becomes correct. The question is: when? And the answer, in standard practice, is: when dictionaries say so. This is the standard process through which words evolve. You and I vote with our speech and writing (even if our votes are really just errors) and, if enough people use the same words the same way for long enough, that usage becomes standard. Dictionaries serve as referees -- not because they're sanctioned to but because they're the best refs we've got. Anyone who would question a dictionary's -- or all dictionaries' authority -- would have a valid argument. But in standard practice, they tally our "votes" and report the results.