This tag is for questions concerning the written representation of the English language, especially spelling and word breaks (including hyphenation).

learn more… | top users | synonyms (1)

104
votes
2answers
7k views

Why is “bicycle” pronounced differently from other obviously related words?

The word bicycle is pronounced /'baɪsɪkəl/ (bahy-si-kuhl), like sickle. However, the words unicycle and motorcycle both have the -cycle pronounced as /-'saɪkəl/ (sahy-kuhl). Is there some sort of ...
76
votes
1answer
24k views

When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?

I generally know how to use a hyphen, but when should I use an en-dash instead of an em-dash, or when should I use a hyphen instead of an em-dash?
76
votes
4answers
6k views

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word?

Why is “cannot” spelled as one word whereas other similar constructions such as “do not,” “will not,” “shall not,” “may not” and “must not” are spelled as two words (unless they are contracted as ...
60
votes
14answers
15k views

“Email” or “e-mail”?

Which way of writing the word: "Email" or "e-mail" is correct? Both variants seem to be in wide use. If both ones are okay, maybe there is a difference in contexts they have been used (one is more ...
58
votes
9answers
8k views

“Username”, “user name” or “user-name”

In computer science, you should have a username or a user name or a user-name and a password to be able to log into the system. Which one is the correct spelling?
56
votes
6answers
2k views

How come 'ou' was reduced to 'o' in the US?

Americans write color and favorite, when others say colour and favourite. How/why did this happen?
52
votes
6answers
59k views

“Login” or “log in”? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: “log in to” or “log into” or “login to” Is there accepted terminology for the process of logging in? As a verb, would you say "Go to ...
45
votes
4answers
6k views

Why are there so few English words that begin with the letter X?

If one reads a lot of children's books, it is obvious that X is a real thorn in the side for those authors looking to have each letter of the alphabet represented in their books. Most of them either ...
44
votes
6answers
14k views

Which is the correct spelling: “grey” or “gray”?

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English?
43
votes
2answers
3k views

Why is “q” followed by a “u”?

Is there a particular rule that states that q should always be followed by a u? Because in certain cases like Qatar, or qawwali, this so-called rule is violated. What do you folks say?
40
votes
6answers
4k views

When did it become correct to add an “s” to a singular possessive already ending in “‑s”?

According to my grammar book, but at variance to the answer to this question, the correct singular possessive if a word ends in ‑s is: James’s car The grammar book allows exceptions for ...
37
votes
8answers
9k views

Is it “alright” or “allright”?

In practice I find both spellings being used. From a logical point of view, "allright" (as in: "all's right — everything is fine") seems correct. However, I recall hearing that "alright" is the ...
33
votes
5answers
2k views

Does the quirky spelling in English actually make it easier to read?

I just finished reading the question asked by Bobnix, in which RegDwight referred to another question with an interesting answer by Kosmonaut. Kosmonaut refers to the great number of pictograms (Kanji ...
32
votes
3answers
7k views

What is the plural form of “zero”?

I tried looking on Google, but there are some fairly contradictory results. I thought I'd ask you guys so we could get an authoritative answer on the subject!
30
votes
8answers
28k views

Plurals of acronyms, letters, numbers — use an apostrophe or not?

When I was in high school back in the 1970s, I was taught that to make a plural of an acronym, a letter, or a number, one should add an apostrophe and "s". Like I would have written this sentence, ...
28
votes
6answers
44k views

What is the difference between dialogue and dialog?

I am American, and I always thought the difference between dialogue and dialog was one of meaning, the way Merriam-Webster has them listed: 2 entries found: dialogue (noun) dialog box ...
27
votes
7answers
8k views

Which is correct: “Filename”, “File Name” or “FileName”?

Which is correct: "Filename", "File Name" or "FileName"?
26
votes
1answer
17k views

“Sign up” vs. “signup”

When we have a button on a website for creating an account, should it say "sign up" or "signup"? I see "sign up" in most places, but which is the correct one?
26
votes
6answers
7k views

Difference between “artifact” and “artefact”

Is there any usage preference between artifact and artefact? My understanding was that an artifact was properly applied to physical, historical objects, while an artefact was more correct for more ...
25
votes
2answers
9k views

Use of “f ” instead of “s” in historic, printed English documents

I was at a museum in London yesterday, and one of the items on exhibit is a document from the eighteenth century. It uses the letter f a lot where s should be used—for example, in Majefty. Did the ...
25
votes
6answers
2k views

Why was the “th” combination chosen for the “th” sound?

Given that the two "th" sounds don't actually sound like a combination of "t" and "h" why was that particular combination selected or become adopted by the majority ?
25
votes
1answer
276k views

“Dieing” vs “dying”

Which is the formally correct spelling, dieing or dying? Is there any history of the alternative spelling? I type dieing naturally, but my spellchecker marks it wrong. This is largely an etymology ...
23
votes
5answers
533 views

Is it Web site or website?

Future Perfect's "Is it Web site or website?" states: Since the World Wide Web is a proper noun, we use initial upper-case letters, as we would with your surname, for example. As for ...
22
votes
7answers
9k views

Why is “primer” pronounced with a short “i” sound?

This word—used to mean an elementary textbook, not a painting material—annoys me to no end. Does anyone know why, exactly, "primer" is pronounced with a short "i" sound? I don't know why, call it ...
22
votes
4answers
5k views

“Cancelled” or “Canceled”?

Cancelled or Canceled ? Which one is right? You have successfully canceled the registration or You have successfully cancelled the registration
22
votes
2answers
4k views

When do you use “learnt” and when “learned”?

Is learnt UK English and learned US? Is it that simple? I’m used to using learnt, but my US spellchecker says it is wrong.
22
votes
4answers
1k views

Words with a leading silent w

My eldest is a beginning reader. Yesterday we read one of my favorite books, The Wreck of the Zephyr. He pointed at wreck and asked me why that one looked like it said "wuh-reck." I explained that ...
22
votes
2answers
5k views

When is “L” doubled?

Some verbs can have double Ls in the gerund form; for example: modeling; modelling traveling; travelling Which form should we use, or which form is used more in the literature?
22
votes
5answers
2k views

How do you spell Muammar Qaddafi?

This name, which is spelled القذافي in Arabic, is spelled in so many different ways in the Latin alphabet: Gadafi, Gadaffi, Gaddafi, Gaddaffi, Gadhafi, Gadhaffi, Ghadafi, Ghadaffi, Ghaddafi, ...
22
votes
2answers
5k views

What's the deal with “colonel”?

Why does the word colonel (as in military rank) have such a strange spelling compared to how it's pronounced (or vice versa, although I don't know how you would pronounce that)?
21
votes
6answers
5k views

Are the endings “-zation” and “-sation” interchangeable?

What is with words that have forms that end both in -zation and -sation, such as localization and localisation? Many spell checkers recommend -zation.
21
votes
4answers
2k views

“Whereäs” as an alternative spelling of “whereas”

Wiktionary shows whereäs as a valid alternative spelling of the word whereas (see here). It gives the following quotations to illustrate the usage: 1 Permanent International Association of ...
21
votes
4answers
6k views

Why are “sugar” and “sure” pronounced with an SH?

As far as I know, those are the only two. They should be pronounced Soogher and Soor, shouldn't they? I looked them up on Dictionary.com, and their etymologies reveal no trace of an SH, except where ...
21
votes
2answers
3k views

Why is it true that “I before E, except after C”?

I almost hesitate to ask this, because it is hard to believe no one else asked it; but it isn't showing up in the "similar titles" list. What is special about 'C' that switches the 'IE' immediately ...
21
votes
4answers
14k views

Is it “front-end”, “frontend”, or “front end”?

Possible Duplicate: When to use a hyphen in writing a compound word Which is correct? front-end engineering frontend engineering front end engineering I looked over ...
20
votes
11answers
21k views

“Synced” or “synched”

Which is correct: synced or synched? Is one of these American and the other British spelling or are they interchangeable? I have only ever seen sync used in the computing industry.
19
votes
5answers
1k views

Is “princessship” a word? any other words where same letter comes 3 times consecutively?

One of my friends argues that princessship is the only word which has 3 identical letter together ("s") ,but I think there is no word such as princessship. Can anyone tell me whether this is a real ...
19
votes
4answers
10k views

Why are there 3 different ways to pronounce “oo”?

My German colleagues were laughing at the way I pronounce google, and it led to a discussion. With words like google, yahoo, poodle and loose, the oo has a sound similar to the German ü sound. With ...
19
votes
4answers
957 views

Why is Q used in some words instead of K or C

For instance in words Iraq and Qashqai? Are there any historical reasons for that?
19
votes
3answers
3k views

When to drop the 'e' when ending in -able?

I've seen a thread that generally asks about Creating words with “-able” suffix But I don't think it answers my point, though they are admittedly dangerously close topics. When do you drop the 'e' ...
18
votes
3answers
10k views

When a sentence starts with “e.g.”, should the e be capitalized?

When a sentence starts with e.g., should the e be capitalized? Neverminding that it might be better to start with "For example," ... Thinking of SE posts and comments, should the starting e be ...
18
votes
3answers
2k views

Where did the “ue” in “tongue” come from?

How I remember being told over and over how to spell tongue! I didn't understand it then; I don't understand it now. What evolution might put a silent "ue" at the end of a word?
18
votes
3answers
2k views

How and when did American spelling supersede British spelling in the US?

Considering that Webster published his first dictionary in 1806, is there a recognised tipping point (year, decade, etc.) that marked the move from traditional British spelling to Webster's American? ...
18
votes
5answers
2k views

What is the standard rule for using or not using hyphen and diaeresis on the words like reelect , reexamine, and cooperate?

I found that diaeresis is used on the word, reelection in the following sentence of the article titled “Rational Irrationality” in the New Yorker magazine (April 27). “This morning’s news that ...
18
votes
3answers
1k views

Possessive of a word that is already possessive

If the cricket ground Lord's is a possessive, what if you want to describe something belonging to Lord's? Would you say "I was very impressed by Lord's's customer services"? It doesn't look right, ...
18
votes
3answers
797 views

Why is “definitely” so frequently typoed?

Definitely seems to be one of the most frequently typoed words in written English on the Internet, enough to bring somebody to create d-e-f-i-n-i-t-e-l-y.com. Simon Google says, in a completely ...
17
votes
3answers
2k views

Why don't Americans write “devor” instead of “devour”?

Why don't Americans write devor instead of devour to be consistent with the pervasiveness of using variations such as color and armor?
17
votes
5answers
2k views

Correct spelling of “program”

I mostly have exposure to American English online. I am currently writing out a resume and need some help. In Australia, in general, we write programme to mean a schedule or community programme. ...
17
votes
2answers
2k views

Was the “Ye Olde Shoppe” ever used or is it just an ancient-looking construct of modern times?

Surely, if I were the owner of a shop selling archery goods and wanted to portray my shop as some kind of old-fashioned, high-quality traditional outlet, I might be tempted to call it “Ye Olde Archery ...
17
votes
2answers
492 views

“License” and “licence”

What is the difference between license and licence? Are both variations accepted in US and UK?