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In my area of work the word author as a verb has become quite common. However, it seems to have a subtly different meaning than plain vanilla write. For example, one does not write software unit tests; one authors them.

Can anyone offer a clear distinction between the two words? Has author as a verb become a common usage outside of the field of computer software?

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Writing unit tests sounds much better to me than authoring unit tests. – Hugo Dec 3 '11 at 22:38
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I would understood this subtle difference connotational-wise where authoring includes a higher level of creativity or other mental use. I would also say that all authoring is writing, but that not all writing is authoring.

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I have no idea why you got marked down. I think your answer is probably exactly right. So I will accept it. – Fraser Orr Dec 7 '11 at 15:53
Neither do I, but thank you for the acceptance. – olovholm Dec 17 '11 at 16:49

The verb author either means to write something (a book) or to create something (a computer program). I see no reason why one cannot use write for both purposes.

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Oxford Dictionaries Pro defines the verb author as ‘be the author of (a book or piece of writing)’ and ‘be the originator of’. The OED has similar definitions, with the earliest citation dated 1598. However, when author means ‘to be the author or originator of (a book, play, remark, etc.)’ it is described as ‘obsolete except in U.S. use’. As a BrEng speaker I would not use it as a verb at all, but if it is being used for a specific purpose in the computing industry, then so be it.

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Many English teachers and texts will always opt for write as the verb instead of author. It sounds pretentious as well as being a less preferred form.

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Could you italicise the quoted verbs, please? – deadly Mar 6 '15 at 9:46

I believe that the meaning of writing is a subset of the meaning of authoring, similarly to the way that writer is a subset of author (noun). I use author when I don't wish to emphasis the manner in which a work was created. I would apply it to art, music, writing (including writing programs), or perhaps in more metaphorical senses: authoring a city, i.e. building it, founding it, etc.

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