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Questions tagged [orthography]

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

280
votes
1answer
360k 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?
277
votes
10answers
187k views

What is the correct way to pluralize an acronym?

For example, if I wanted to write the equivalent of There are many automated teller machines in this city. Would it be There are many ATMs in this city. or There are many ATM's in this ...
171
votes
3answers
7k views

Where were “should”, “shall”, and “must” in the 18th Century?

According to the following Google Ngram, in the U.K. the modals should, shall, and must were virtually missing from English writing during the 18th Century (I've added will for a comparison modal ...
163
votes
1answer
544k views

What's the difference between “requester” and “requestor”?

Both are in dictionaries. I've heard people insist "requester" is correct for a person who requests something, and that "requestor" is wrong there, leaving me to wonder how it is used. Requestor ...
143
votes
5answers
268k views

“log in to” or “log into” or “login to”

When writing an instruction about connecting to a computer using ssh, telnet, etc., I'm not sure what spacing to use in this familiar spoken phrase: "Log in to host.com" "Log into host.com" "Login to ...
140
votes
5answers
22k 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 “don’...
134
votes
7answers
38k views

Why is “Pokémon” written with an accent?

Is there a language-related reason why the word has an accent on the "é"? The Japanese for Pokémon is "ポケモン" (pokemon), so it's not to represent a long vowel.
132
votes
2answers
19k 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 ...
131
votes
9answers
75k 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?
123
votes
3answers
152k 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!
119
votes
5answers
93k views

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

Which is correct? front-end engineering frontend engineering front end engineering I looked over http://www.grammarbook.com/punctuation/hyphens.asp, referenced in this answer, and I'm still not sure ...
114
votes
8answers
226k 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, "......
102
votes
3answers
11k views

How did 7 come to be an abbreviation for 'and' in Old English?

According to A History of the English Language: Revised Edition by Elly van Gelderen, p.53, in Old English the numeral 7 was used as an abbreviation for the word and: Abbreviations are frequently ...
98
votes
14answers
79k 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 ...
86
votes
7answers
110k 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 ...
78
votes
7answers
41k views

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

Which is correct: "Filename", "File Name" or "FileName"?
67
votes
6answers
5k 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?
65
votes
7answers
30k views

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

What is the difference? Or is there any? Which would be more British English?
62
votes
2answers
18k views

Is it “falsy” or “falsey”?

I have seen both spellings of this word, falsy and falsey. It can mean "something that is equivalent to false" in computer science, such as "The only two falsy values in the Ruby Language are false ...
60
votes
5answers
65k views

What's the negation of “I used to be”? Surely not “I didn't used to be”?

What is the negative form of "I used to be"? I often hear "I didn't used to be" but that sounds awfully wrong in my ears.
59
votes
7answers
28k 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 historical ...
58
votes
2answers
224k views

“Queueing” or “Queuing”

Which spelling is better, queueing or queuing? Both words seem to mean the same, but there are two different spellings. My context is: Queueing Latency versus Queuing Latency If both ...
57
votes
7answers
155k 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 (...
56
votes
2answers
13k 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?
56
votes
2answers
51k views

“Updatable” vs. “Updateable”: which is correct?

Which spelling is correct, "updatable" or "updateable"? For example, "The file is not updat(e)able." By the way, I did go to Google and ref.dic.com for this first, and they both seem to indicate ...
56
votes
3answers
89k views

What’s the rule for adding “-er” vs. “-or” when forming an agent noun from a verb?

What’s the rule to decide whether you add -er or whether you add -or when creating an agent noun from a verb? Sometimes it’s -er: read > reader hate > hater hit > hitter But other times it’s -...
55
votes
4answers
11k 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 ...
55
votes
1answer
334k views

Is there an apostrophe in a master's degree?

The question asks it all really. When referring to a master's degree, do you use an apostrophe or not? That is, is it "a master's" or "a masters"?
54
votes
7answers
6k views

What happened to the “ch” in moschito?

Mosquito > Moschito > Mosquito /məˈskito/ — [mɒˈskiːtəʊ], [məˈskiːtəʊ], [mɒˈskitoʊ], [məˈskitoʊ] The name of this insect is spelled with the letters ‹qu› in several languages, including Catalan ...
52
votes
12answers
117k 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.
51
votes
4answers
9k views

Why is ‘i’ in milk pronounced differently from ‘i’ in find?

As far as I know, in words of the structure CVCC, the vowel is usually short. Examples include milk, front, clamp, wasp, sport, etc. However, with some CC types, the vowel seems to always be long (...
51
votes
2answers
22k 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?
48
votes
10answers
70k 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 ...
47
votes
10answers
135k views

Is there a standard ordering for the question mark and the exclamation mark used together?

We've all wanted to express certain questions, rhetorical or not, with annoyance, excitement, surprise, frustration and so on. What better way than with both a question mark (?) and an exclamation ...
47
votes
4answers
298k views

Difference between “publicly” and “publically”

I know publically appears as an incorrect spelling in most dictionaries (in fact as I type this up on my Safari browser it keeps trying to correct the spelling to publicly). However I have seen the ...
47
votes
1answer
729k 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 ...
47
votes
2answers
30k views

“Referer” or “referrer”

First of all, I'm speaking of webpage referral. Second, let me quote Wikipedia: The misspelling referer originated in the original proposal by computer "scientist" Phillip Hallam-Baker to ...
46
votes
3answers
7k views

What is this famous example of the absurdity of English spelling?

A long time ago I read about this funny example posited by some relatively well-known author who spelled a word (I forget the word) in the most difficult way possible, but in a way that was totally ...
45
votes
9answers
47k 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 ...
45
votes
2answers
7k views

Where does “ö” fall in alphabetical ordering?

Much to my surprise, I just learned that some English-language documents use the ö character. I need to know, when sorting words in an English-language document, where is ö placed? before A? ...
45
votes
2answers
153k views

Is there a difference between Therefor and Therefore? [closed]

I'm a non-native English speaker, and my automatic spellchecker seems to accept both therefore and therefor. Is one orthography preferred ? Is that a British vs. American difference ? Or an old vs. ...
44
votes
2answers
91k views

“noone”, “no one” or “no-one”?

What is the correct form? Does context play a role? Are there noticeable trends towards the awkward "noone" or is it just a by-product of careless orthography on the Internet?
42
votes
4answers
78k views

“Cancelled” or “Canceled”?

Cancelled or Canceled ? Which one is right? You have successfully canceled the registration or You have successfully cancelled the registration
42
votes
5answers
3k 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 ...
41
votes
1answer
65k 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?
41
votes
5answers
197k views

Is “there're” (similar to “there's”) a correct contraction?

Q: "Do you have any juice?" A: "Yes, there's some in the fridge." Sounds perfectly fine to me, but: Q: "Do you have any towels?" A: "Yes, there's some in the closet." Does not. I asked for ...
40
votes
3answers
45k 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 ...
40
votes
4answers
10k 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 ...
39
votes
3answers
329k views

Co-Founder, Co-founder, or cofounder?

I've seen all three used and there doesn't seem to be a definitive one that I can find. I'm hedging towards Co-Founder as it's a title, but any clarity would be appreciated. Edit If it makes it any ...
39
votes
0answers
160k views

Difference between “zeros” and “zeroes” [duplicate]

Are there any differences between “zeros” and “zeroes”? Is any of them more correct, more often used, more modern? Are there differences e.g. between British English and American English in the usage ...