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When you are trying to say that something is automatically filled in, you use the word autofill, or if you were using past tense, autofilled.

I see 3 main ways that people use it:

  1. auto fill / auto filled
  2. auto-fill / auto-filled
  3. autofill / autofilled

Note: this also applies to pre fill, pre-fill, and prefill as well.

Which way is the most preferred spelling?

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  • I think you must mean the spelling. Grammatically correct is a binary condition (grammar is correct or it is not). – Elliott Frisch Jan 17 '14 at 18:24
  • @ElliottFrisch that would suggest that there is no differences between forms of a language, and no disagreements among expert grammarians. I'd agree though that this is not a question of grammar here. – Jon Hanna Jan 17 '14 at 18:29
  • Ok ... I can change the title and question. I wasn't sure if spelling would be correct or not, so I chose grammar. – Code Maverick Jan 17 '14 at 18:30
  • @JonHanna I understand. – Elliott Frisch Jan 17 '14 at 19:03
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There is no grammatical superiority or inferiority to open compounds (auto fill), hyphenated compounds (auto-fill) or closed compounds (autofill).

There are forms that are particularly common with particularly common compounds, to the extent that they would be considered preferred spellings. But even then it's common to find two or all three in good use.

There are also some compounds of long standing where all three are still often found (egg beater, egg-beater and eggbeater being an example).

There seems to be a general trend over the last few decades toward fewer hyphenated forms, and more closed forms, but not a so strong as to make hyphenated forms "wrong".

In all, there's little to pick between them. If anything would be objectionable to anyone, it would be the fact that they're relative neologisms, which some people dislike, and such people would prefer to just use "automatically filled in". But that's an objection of subjective taste of some people, not a rule of grammar. I would though avoid a neologism in a formal context, unless the formal text was on a related technical topic.

The only real way to pick between open, hyphenated and closed compounds are:

  1. See what other people seem to prefer in the given case. Pay particular attention to those of the same region as yourself and writing in the same register as you intend to.

  2. If you really just like the look of one more than another, and it's not particularly rare, then by all means go for it: It's an acceptable variation of personal style.

There are though two exceptions:

  1. If a closed compound begins to be thought of as a fully independent word, then you should favour it. That said, if that happens you probably won't think of it as a closed compound yourself, so you won't make that mistake.

  2. If a closed compound matches the spelling of a different word, then you should avoid it, to avoid confusion.

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  • Yea, I typically use the closed compound form, but was just curious as to if the others were wrong or if there was a preferred general form. – Code Maverick Jan 17 '14 at 18:34
  • 1
    No. You're fine, bar the caveat I just added of not using a closed compound that is spelled the same way as a completely different word. You might sometimes end up being a bit unusual with a given compound (in this case, none of the three suffer that), but even then you won't be completely wrong in your use. – Jon Hanna Jan 17 '14 at 18:37
  • Ok ... thank you for the answer. I usually just go with what looks right to my eye, and this one was a hard one. – Code Maverick Jan 17 '14 at 18:41
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"If a closed compound matches the spelling of a different word, then you should avoid it, to avoid confusion." For example:

  • re-lease (not "release") - To lease again.
  • release - To let go.
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