*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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5 Responses to “*Lineup, Line Up, Line-up”

  1. "use the one word lineup when you need a noun, [...] never hyphenate it."
    The OED would disagree with you. Look up "lineup" and you get the entry for "line-up".

  2. Lineup (or line up) for the parade is at 10 a.m.
    Please, Settle the argument for us.

  3. I like Grammar Underground but please don't split your infinitives, e.g., "There's no need ever _to hyphenate_ it." It's old school, I know, but generally, it also just sounds better.

  4. Hi, Pam. Actually there's no rule against splitting infinitives -- and there never was. You can search this site for the keywords "split infinitive" for lots more on the subject.

  5. Sandra: Sorry for the very late reply. I bet your argument is long forgotten by now. "Line up" is the verb form. "Lineup" is a noun. Your sentence uses it as a noun, like "Lunch is at 10 a.m." So if you were telling people to line up at 10 a.m., you'd want the two-word form. But because you're saying that the thing, the lineup, is at 10 a.m., you want the one-word form.