Rally goer, rally-goer, rallygoer?

Goers drive me nuts. I’m not talking about the kind of goers that so fascinated Eric Idle in an old Monty Python sketch. I’m talking about the goers you add at the end of words like party, beach, festival, mall — you name it. Any place people go, you can tack a “goers” on the end of.

Because I edit feature articles, goers come up quite a bit. And no two writers “goer” alike.

“Festival goers can also check out the 40-plus carnival rides.”

“Beach-goers flock to Santa Monica ever weekend.”

“Partygoers enjoyed cocktails and hors d’oeuvres.”

Some terms ending in “goer,” for example “moviegoer,” are in the dictionary. Those are easy to deal with. Just do what the dictionary says and make them one word. But when you’re sort of manufacturing a less common term, like if you’re talking about someone who goes to a rally, you won’t find that in the dictionary.

The Associated Press Stylebook, which I have to follow for most of my work, usually has answers for stuff that isn’t in the dictionary. But doesn’t have an entry for “goers.” So after years of working as an editor, I still wasn’t confident in whether to hyphenate “goers,” make attach it to the other word, or make it a separate word.

Then I got the online edition of AP’s guide and everything changed. Unlike the hard copy, which has only official entries, the online version has an “Ask the Editor” function, whose answers come up when you search the site. So when you search for “goer,” you come upon this exchange from 2018:

Question: If we write moviegoer, do we also write rallygoer?

Answer: Yes.

In other words, treat “goer” like a suffix and tack it on to the end of any noun someone is going to: festivalgoer, mallgoer, beachgoer. They’re all correct in closed form, at least in AP style.

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