RE: log vs login

Subject: RE: log vs login
From: "McClare, Scott" <smcclare -at- neptec -dot- com>
To: "'TECHWR-L'" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Wed, 24 Nov 1999 13:45:28 -0500

Katie Crowley Rosenberg [mailto:krosenbe -at- easysystemsinc -dot- com] said:

> Okay, I know it's language use, but it's driving me crazy.
> Does everyone use Login or Logon as the title of the Log In Screen?

I use whatever the operating system or application uses.

For example, the Windows NT box that I am using at this moment starts with a
window titled "Begin Logon," which prompts me to press Ctrl-Alt-Del to "log
on." (I personally think that's a really lousy bit of user interface
design, given the three-finger-salute's *usual* use, but that's another
story.) This usage is consistent with Microsoft's style guidelines, of

On the other hand, every UNIX box I've ever seen offers a "Login:" prompt
when it wants you to start a session.

> The developers here argue that: 1) everyone does it and 2) if
> "set up" is the verb and "setup" is the noun, then "log in"
> is the verb and "login" is the noun.

I have *occasionally* seen "login" used as a verb, but 99.9% of my
experience is consistent with what your developers are telling you.

> My argument is that 1) multiple wrongs don't make a right and
> 2) "set up" is the verb and "setup" is the noun, but "log in"
> is always a verb and "log" is the noun.

Well, if you want to get *really* nitpicky, "userid," "user ID," or "Name"
or some suitable variation is the noun, because that's what the computer is
asking you for at the login prompt. Multi-user systems keep a log file of
comings and goings, which I suspect is how "log in" and "log out" came into
use. (Real-world analogies would be a timeclock or the sheet you have to
sign at Reception when you're on the premises after hours.) The system
isn't asking you for a log; it already knows what the log file is, and most
users have no control over that.

This is a case of a verb construction ("log in") getting "nounified" with
extended use. "Login" and "logon" are widely-accepted terms used to denote
gaining access to a computer system, and you're fighting against about 20
years' worth of usage.

Take care,


Scott A. McClare - Technical Writer
Neptec Design Group Ltd., Kanata, Ontario, Canada
(613) 599-7603 x504
smcclare -at- neptec -dot- com

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