Online vs. On-line

Subject: Online vs. On-line
From: Chuck Beck <cbeck -at- BGNET -dot- BGSU -dot- EDU>
Date: Wed, 7 Feb 1996 21:14:59 -0500

Joyce Flaherty writes:

>When I protested, they said, "After we talked to you, we consulted a
>grammarian. The proper spelling is on-line." They did apologize to
>me. They did admit error in changing the name of our product. BUT,
>they implied that there is something very wrong with naming a system
>Xxxxxxx Online (one word, no hyphen). What do you think?

FWIW, the Chicago Manual of Style, 14th ed., while it does not give specific
examples, has this to say about compound words in general:

"GENERAL PRINCIPLES

"For some years now, the trend in spelling compound words has been away from
the use of hyphens. There seems to be a tendency to spell compounds solid
as soon as acceptance warrants their being considered permanent compounds,
and otherwise to spell them open. This is a trend, not a rule, but it is
sometimes helpful, when deciding how to spell some new combination, to
remember that the trend exists."

So, to those who declare authoritatively (if not piously) that "on-line" is
*THE* correct spelling, I ask simply: "What is your source of authority?"
On what grounds do you insist so fervently?

I agree with others who have said that longterm trends and usage will
eventually settle the issue, however the debate rages. And, after all,
isn't that one of the marvelous things about our English language, its
flexibility and constantly-changing nature?

Chuck Beck
cbeck -at- bgnet -dot- bgsu -dot- edu


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