I could only find a definition on Wiktionary, making it questionable. My team is looking to title something that refers to departments outside our own, but still internal to the company.

As in, "Extra-Departmental Asset Request Process" Meaning, a process for handling asset requests that come to us from other departments within the company. External to our department, but still internal to the company. This is in contrast to a separate process for "local" asset requests originating from within our department.

We've been throwing around simply "external requests" in conversation, but it has led to frequent confusion about being external to the company vs. just to our department.

Is there a better word than extra-departmental? If not, which would be accurate?

  • Extradepartmental
  • Extra-departmental
  • Extra departmental
  • yourdictionary.com/extradepartmental While I don't see it widely accepted by dictionaries, it does appear to be used by many educational sources shown in this google search – Hank Feb 13 '17 at 16:29
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    Not all acceptable words are in a dictionary. But there is some question when you don't know if it 'sounds' right. 'Extra-departmental' sounds very natural to me. – Mitch Feb 13 '17 at 17:02
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    At least "departmental" has been enshrined by Robert Frost ":No one stands round to stare. It is nobody else's affair It couldn't be called ungentle But how thoroughly departmental." (The closing lines of "Departmental.") – Airymouse Feb 13 '17 at 20:35
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    I'm usually very much against the use of words not licensed by respected dictionaries, and resist D-I-Y 'productive' forays, but I have no problem with the non-open forms here. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 14 '17 at 0:01

The terms extra-departmental and extradepartmental appear in Google Books search results going back to the second half of the 1800s. For example, from State Education for the People (1890):

The Department of Public Instruction [in India], in the first vigour and self-confidence of immaturity, attempted to monopolise the whole area of Indian education. The figures for 1855 show that it started with only 67,569 pupils in every grade of institution, Departmental and Aided, from the colleges down to the primary vernacular schools ; and 856,211 in "Extra-Departmental" schools, which, although included in the returns, were outside the sphere of official action.

And from "Extract from the Narrative Report of Mr. T A. Pope. Assistant Surveyor General, Season of 1897–98," in General Report, Survey of India Department, 1897–98 (1899):

LITHOGRAPHIC PRINT SECTION.—The number of subjects printed from stone was 524, or 88 less than last year. Of these, 58 were departmental and 466 extra-departmental, as against 56 departmental and 556 extra-departmental last year. The number of pulls from stone, was 547,497, of which 95,716 were departmental and 451,781 extra-departmental.

Subsequent instances of the term use it in much the way that you seem to want to. For example, from "Highways III. Construction, Improvement, and Repair," in Southern Reporter, Second Series: Cases Argued and Determined in the Courts of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi (1984):

Fla.App. 1 Dist. 1984. Allocation of intradepartmental and extradepartmental appropriations utilized for operation of sheriff's road patrol and the local road ...

And from Jon Udell, Practical Internet Groupware (2003):

For example, although I can invite my extradepartmental colleagues into one of the staffwide discussions on our intranet server, I can't invite them to join my own department's newsgroup if it's configured—as it should be—to admit only members of my team. Nothing prevents me from trying to do this. When I post the message to my project newsgroup, I can cc an extradepartmental colleague.

The instances of extra departmental (blue line) and extradepartmental (red line) are sufficiently common that Ngram produces line plots of both spellings (with the results for extra-departmental treated as instances of extra departmental, because of the way Google Ngram treats hyphenated words):

All in all, I think you are on very safe ground if you choose to use the word extradepartmental, whether you hyphenate it or not. The absence of the term from most dictionaries indicates not that it scarcely exists, but that it carries the expected meaning of a compound of departmental with the prefix extra- (meaning outside): extradepartmental = "outside the department."

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You could contrast the local requests from others in the company by calling them company requests.

You could contrast local requests with other requests.

One thing that Extra-Departmental Asset Request Process tells outsiders is that you provide your share of bureaucracy, signaled by the overlong title of the process. Does your department have a name like Accounts Payable? Could you say Non-AP requests?

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  • Thank you for the suggestions, Yosef. "Company requests" won't work however, because it would describe BOTH types of requests (coming from within our department and coming from other departments), indistinguishably. Hadn't thought of using "Non [My Department] Requests"...the only problem there is that my department unfortunately has a long name that must not be abbreviated - still leaving me with an overlong title. – Diana Feb 13 '17 at 17:29
  • You mentioned "local." I did consider "local requests" and "[?] requests"...but what would the contrast to local be? "Foreign" certainly doesn't work! "Extra-departmental" still seems the best option...what it potentially lacks as a valid English word it makes up for with easily-inferred clarity. – Diana Feb 13 '17 at 17:40

Interdepartmental requests are requests between departments and extradepartmental requests are requests from outside the department. So, if the requests are from another department, as opposed to from an individual in that department, use interdepartmental instead of extradepartmental.

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    Welcome to EL&U. This does not really answer the question, which is about the spelling of the word. – Cascabel Jan 17 '19 at 18:02
  • Thank you. You are correct, and @sven already gave a very thorough answer to the stated question "is 'extra-departmental' a real word?" My answer was meant, as a supplement, to address the user's stated goal at the end of their first paragraph, "My team is looking to title something that refers to departments outside our own, but still internal to the company." – Daniel Ford Jan 20 '19 at 19:45

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