I find English punctuation wholly unsatisfactory in times like these. I want to add an '-er' to the phrase 'do it yourself', to refer to someone who does things himself instead of hiring out the work to a professional builder, and the best I can come up with is


The reason this is unsatisfactory is that, if I add parentheses to show the structure (using the parentheses the way you would in a mathematical formula) I'd come up with something like this:

((do it yourself)er)

Having hyphens between the words of 'do it yourself' seems fine, but then the '-er' attached directly to the word 'yourself' suggests this structure

(do it ((yourself)er))

which is obviously wrong.

Do we have any better option than 'do-it-yourselfer'?

  • You're thinking too hard...don't worry about it. "Do-it-yourselfer" is just fine. – Mitch Jun 12 '13 at 15:03
  • Ahh... but isn't this whole site dedicated to people who spend their time "thinking too hard" about English? – iconoclast Jun 17 '13 at 15:48
  • 1- I've thought long and hard, weighing all sides, judging nuances at length, and I've come to te conclusion that you shouldn't think so hard about it. 2 a also surely ther's a single sesquipedalian latinate term that captures the sense exactly, but hardly anyone has ever heard of, no one uses except in examples of weird words for everyday concepts. – Mitch Jun 17 '13 at 18:19

I think you're right that do-it-yourselfer looks a bit like (do it (yourself er)), but in practice I don't think this is a problem. Do-it-yourself is well-established as a single lexical item, and *yourselfer is nonsense. As a result, I think it's obvious that the suffix -er has scope over (do it yourself) and not just (yourself). (Try reading it aloud: does the spelling really change how you interpret it?)

Unfortunately, do-it-yourself isn't usually spelled *doityourself, and the suffix -er is usually attached directly to words with no intervening hyphen, so do-it-yourselfer is the expected form. However, I think there's some latitude to break the -er rule and insert a hyphen, so I decided to search COCA for do-it-yourself-er. Here are my search terms and the number of results for each query:

do-it-yourself     720
do-it-yourselfer   47
do-it-yourself-er  1
doityourself       1
doityourselfer     0
doityourself-er    0

(I'm not sure, but I think it's possible that the single result for do-it-yourself-er was the result of breaking the word across two lines, so it's possible that there were zero actual results for that search term.)

Based on the above, I think it's best to stick with do-it-yourselfer. Still, if you don't mind defying convention and strongly dislike do-it-yourselfer, I think do-it-yourself-er is a credible alternative.

  • 1
    Have you tried DIYer or any of its variants as suggested by TrevorD? – Mari-Lou A Jun 13 '13 at 19:18
  • @Mari-LouA I'm not sure what you mean by "tried", but I think TrevorD's answer is quite good. – snailboat Jun 13 '13 at 20:21
  • Searching in COCA or the BNC? I was curious and... lazy :) – Mari-Lou A Jun 13 '13 at 20:28
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    @Mari-LouA I see 12 results for DIYer, of which two are false positives (should be "dryer"), and zero for DIY-er. If you'd like to do further research (such as checking other corpora), please feel free :-) – snailboat Jun 13 '13 at 20:31
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    I don't like 'DIYer' because that's not what we say when we speak. I generally like my writing to reflect (my) natural language patterns, minus hesitations, backtracking, corrections, and so forth. – iconoclast Jun 17 '13 at 15:52

In British English, it is just as common - if not more so - to see DIY rather than do-it-yourself. Consequently DIYer or DIY-er would be quite acceptable in many contexts.

Alternatively, you could rephrase it to someone who prefers DIY or something similar.

  • 1
    In my circle this activity is usually referred to as BIY (for Bodge-It-Yourself). – Brian Hooper Jun 12 '13 at 14:55
  • DIY is also very common on the internet in general. I wouldn't be surprised to see/hear it in the US. – Izkata Jun 12 '13 at 23:25
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    I agree with TrevorD here - DIY and DIY-er are very acceptable. – Sam Jun 24 '13 at 23:36

In Canadian English, this type of person is commonly referred to as a Handy Man, which is also a term referring to anyone whose secret weapon is duct tape.

There's really nothing wrong with "do-it-yourselfer", but I personally prefer "handy man".

<3 Red Green

  • Welcome Jim. Nice, direct answer. – Bruce James Jun 12 '13 at 18:10
  • Two words up there? Handyman is also used in the US. – Wayfaring Stranger Jun 12 '13 at 18:44
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    I'd normally use Handyman to refer to the person you hire to do small jobs because you're not a DIYer. – Dan Neely Jun 12 '13 at 19:04
  • @DanNeely you could hire them, but I would imagine that in their own home, they are a DIYer. Plus a handyman is more a person who fixes things or does their own home projects, etc. Someone you hire I'd call a repairman, carpenter, tradesman, etc. I can't think of a situation where a handyman isn't a DIYer and a DIYer isn't handy – Jim Jun 12 '13 at 19:09
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    I suppose American and British vs Canadian makes an interesting change from the standard American vs British comment threads... – Dan Neely Jun 12 '13 at 19:38

I'd say "a do-it-yourself enthusiast". or a diy enthusiast.

  • 3
    Hi Sandra. Thanks very much for your answer, and welcome to the site! Please consider adding some explanation or a citation and source to help expand on your answer. – Lumberjack Aug 21 '18 at 22:44

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