Lineup, line up, line-up

Here’s a word that separates the careful writers from everyone else: lineup. You know you’re reading something that’s not edited by a pro when you see: “On Saturday night, the club will have a great line-up.”

Just as telling: “On Saturday night, the club will have a great line up.”

And this mistake you don’ see as often, luckily: “The patrons had to lineup in front of the building to get in.”

That last one is a particular danger to anyone who doesn’t know to be skeptical of spell check. Most spell-check programs don’t question the one-word lineup because it is, in fact, a legit word. Yet it’s still wrong in that sentence. Here’s why.

The one-word lineup is a noun: We have a great lineup of performers today. The coach something-something’d the starting lineup. (I don’t speak sports. But you get the idea.)

The verb form is two words: Line up the planters against the wall. The children should line up outside the building at 8 a.m.

There’s no need to ever hyphenate it. Though, technically, according to the rules of punctuation, you could turn the two-word form into an adjective by writing "The line-up procedure is as follows." But that’s rare, and most people would probably just use the noun attributively (as an adjective) there anyway: The lineup procedure is as follows.

To write like a pro, use the one word lineup when you need a noun, use the two word line up when it's a verb, and never hyphenate it.

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