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On the new Engineering SE, we field questions about professional engineering registration. The tag categorizing these questions is "licensure" and I usually find myself referring to the topic by that word but there are times when I feel like I should use "licensing" instead. I feel like the two words carry slightly different implications but I have trouble identifying the specific way in which they are different.

For example, I much prefer "licensure" here:

This question concerns professional licensure.

but it does not work here:

The Board for Professional Engineers is a licensing body.

and either seems to work here:

The organization deals with professional licensing issues.

The organization deals with issues of professional licensure.

Are these words synonyms? They don't seem to be equivalent in every formulation; how can I decide which is more appropriate for a given sentence?

I don't think this is directly related to the license/licence distinction.

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In each of your examples licensing is used as an adjective, while licensure is used as a noun.

Licensure:

NOUN

[MASS NOUN] chiefly North American

The granting of a license, especially to carry out a trade or profession.

The suffix -ure creates an abstract active noun:

suffix forming abstract nouns of action,

from Old French -ure,

from Latin -ura, an ending of fem. nouns denoting employment or result.

Licensing is the progressive form of license, used as a verb, noun or an adjective, depending on the context:

The Board for Professional Engineers has been licensing engineers for 4 decades.

The Board for Professional Engineers is a licensing body.

  • As a gerund, licensing is used as a noun.

The Board for Professional Engineers arranges the licensing of engineers.

  • Suppose I remove "issues" and "issues of" in the third example: "The organization deals with professional [licensing|licensure]." Isn't that a legitimate construction with the words being nouns in either case? – Air Feb 23 '15 at 18:13
  • Still profession is an adjective and licensure is the object of the preposition with (rather than of). – ScotM Feb 23 '15 at 18:17

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