Login vs. Log In and Other 'One Word or Two?' Dilemmas

My sister, who creates content for a corporate website, wrote recently to ask me about “login.” Should it be one word or two, she wanted to know. Or, more precisely, she wanted to know where I “stand” on the matter.

 While I’m always flattered when someone thinks my opinion is worth a diddle, the truth is that it’s not. So “where I stand” is always right next to a good style guide or reference book.

 According to the Associated Press Stylebook, I told her, “login” is a noun and “log in” is a verb. So, if you're following AP style, as she does, 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 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.


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6 Responses to “Login vs. Log In and Other 'One Word or Two?' Dilemmas”

  1. Oooh--we're discussing this very subject on my own blog today wrt "failover" v. "fail over." http://nancyfriedman.typepad.com/away_with_words/2011/10/word-of-the-week-failover.html

  2. I like "failover." Sounds so advanced, sci-fi-ish even. "I cannot beam you up, Captain. She's in full failover."

  3. The guideline you might try on people is how they'd conjugate the verb -- would they say "she is setting up" or "she is setupping"? As Nancy says, we had a bash at this on her blog today; I had a go about the two-word verb not long ago my self:


  4. Hah! I never thought of it that way: lineupping, makeupping, etc. Gives a whole new perspective on the logic and elegance of these terms.

  5. My son applies the same rules when he is arguing. "No I amn't" is No I am not, but he is using the right grammar to get there. I love new words.

  6. Ironic, isn't it, that the https://www.apstylebook.com home page uses it in both ways??? Infuriating. It's all GREAT until the 2nd to last word of the quote below. They write "AP Stylebook Online login.
    Now all Stylebook Online users can log in here -- no more separate logins for site administrators and users.

    Keep me logged in on this device

    Login Help
    Quiz Subscribers: Login Here"