RE: lifecycle or life-cycle or life cycle

Subject: RE: lifecycle or life-cycle or life cycle
From: "West, Michael" <Michael -dot- West -at- gsjbw -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 21 Apr 2006 10:12:10 +1000

> the computer industry and it's marketing departments have, quite
> frankly, done some interesting things to the English language.

In general, professional marketing communicators use language with more
thought and care than most technical communicators. I offer this as a
judgement rather than fact, because no "proof" is possible. As with all
such generalisations, one can find plenty of exceptions. But marketing
writers stand to gain or loose considerably more than tech writers do by
getting the words "tuned" just right.

Coining a word like "lifecycle" (or, as it might be today, "LifeCycle")
as a part of a deliberate "branding" effort is perfectly legitimate as
long as the term is used consistently in a firm's communication so that
there can be no question in the reader's mind about what is being
referred to. Marketing communicators tend to be very careful with
proprietary terms and brand names. They have to be, because such things
are their stock-in-trade.

In technical communication, however, a writer who chooses "lifecyle"
rather than the ordinary English noun "life cycle" (or "life-cycle" when
it's used as a compound adjective) had better be thinking very carefully
about what kind of meaning and message is being sent to the audience,
and why.

An intelligent, literate reader will wonder whether by "lifecycle" the
writer intended something different from "life cycle", and, if not, then
why the writer didn't use the standard English noun. Is it because the
writer didn't know any better and couldn't be arsed to look it up in a
proper dictionary? Is it because of a misprint? Is there a missing
paragraph somewhere that would have explained the similarities and
differences between a life cycle and a "lifecycle"?

And if the reader is thinking about these questions, and no answer is
forthcoming from the document, then the document has failed a critical

Mike West
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