Any online content creator knows: Writing for the web is no easy feat. In fact, one of the most frustrating challenges we face is due to the fact that new, web-related words are being coined all the time. As a result, we often run into questions like, "Do I capitalize this? Is this one word or two? Should I hyphenate it?"
And while there are a number of different established style guides out there to help answer your writing style-related questions, the problem is, none of them have really done a good job of addressing all those commonly troublesome words marketing publishers and other content creators struggle with regularly, many of which have sprouted up in our writing very recently because of the fast-paced world of the internet.
Well, pull your hair out no longer -- we've got you covered! We've published a brand new Internet Marketing Written Style Guide, meant for helping the modern-day marketer and online content creator figure out just how to write for the web. And yes, the style guide even includes a full section devoted to all those troublesome words we find content creators tripping over all the time, which we'll highlight in this very blog post. And if you're interested in learning more about writing for the web, go ahead and download the complete Internet Marketing Written Style Guide, adapted from HubSpot's own house style guide and covering everything from punctuation, to capitalization, to attribution, and how you can go about creating a house style guide of your very own.
Now let's clear the air ...
Your Master List of Commonly Troublesome Wordsalt text
app: Short form of application. Plural: apps. Do not use if there’s any room for confusion.
A/B test: Also called split testing; at HubSpot, we use A/B testing and write it with the slash.B2B:
BA: Abbreviation for bachelor of arts. No periods.
best-seller (n.), best-selling (adj.): Note hyphen.
beta: Capitalize beta if it is part of an official product name. Otherwise, lowercase it. (Examples: Sign up for the new Yahoo! Messenger beta. Try the beta version of Yahoo! Messenger.)
blog (n., adj., v.): Preferred to weblog. (lowercase)
business-to-business: hyphenated (abbreviation: B2B)
call-to-action, calls-to-action, CTA, CTAs: Always hyphenate when used as a noun (as in “call-to-action” or “calls-to-action”) or an adjective (as in “call-to-action button” or “call-to-action manager”). Whenever possible, try to use CTA or CTAs instead of the hyphenated
version (it’s a mouthful!).
camera phone: Two words.
checkin (n.) check-in (adj.), check in (v.): One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb (usually refers to the social network Foursquare).
cell phone (n., adj.): Two words, no hyphen. (Examples: He left the message on my cell phone. Type in your cell phone number.)
clickthrough (n., adj.), click through (v.): One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb. (Examples: The company’s online ads consistently earn a high clickthrough rate. Click through to the last page to see your score.)
crowdsource, crowdsourcing: One word.
do’s and don’ts: Note the apostrophes. This is actually proper AP style. However, it will always cause the editors in your readership to have blinding migraines and send you hate mail, so try to avoid using this construction if at all possible.
e.g.: Abbreviation meaning for example. Note periods. Don’t include a space after the first period. OK to use when space is a consideration; otherwise, use for example, for instance, or such as. If used, always include a comma after the last period. See also “i.e.” and “ex.” as
each of these has different meanings and are not interchangeable. [Example: Enter a search term (e.g., recipes, horoscopes, gifts) into the box.]
ebook: All lowercase (in titles/headlines and at the beginning of sentences, capitalize the “e”
but not the “b”).
ecommerce: All lowercase (in titles/headlines and at the beginning of sentences, capitalize the “e” but not the “c”).
email (n., adj., v.): One word, no hyphen. Plural: email messages and emails are both acceptable.
Facebook Fan: One who “likes” something on Facebook; capitalize (Exception: lowercase when saying “fans on Facebook”).
Facebook Page: Capitalize (Exception: lowercase when saying “pages on Facebook”).
Facebook Profile: Capitalize (Exception: lowercase when saying “profiles on Facebook”).
Facebook Group: Capitalize (Exception: lowercase when saying “groups on Facebook”).
Foursquare: “F” is capitalized; “s” is lowercase.geolocation:
geotagging (n.), geotag (v.): One word. The verb means to add geographic data (such as longitude and latitude coordinates) to a photo or other media file.
Google: According to Google guidelines, it is not okay to use this trademark as a verb. Use
search, search for, or search on instead.
hashtag: One word.
homepage: One word.
how-to (n., adj.): Note hyphen when used as a noun or an adjective. Plural noun: how-tos. [Examples: Your How-to Guide to Home Buying (headline set in title case); Home-Buying How-To (another headline in title case)]
inbound marketing: Lowercase.
internet marketing: Lowercase.
IT: Abbreviation for information technology. Abbreviation is always acceptable.
keyword, key word (n.): One word when referring to terms that are used on a web page to optimize it for search engines. Use two words in other cases — for example, when key is a synonym for primary or most important. (Examples: An SEO specialist can help you determine the best keywords to use on your web page. She heard little else that he said; the key word in the sentence was “love.”)
LinkedIn: “L” and “I” are capitalized.
login (n., adj.); log in, log in to (v.): One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb, which may be followed by the preposition to. Note that sign in is preferred because it sounds less technical.
mashup (n., adj.), mash up (v.): One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb. (Examples: Anyone can create a mashup with the right technology. Use our tool to mash up RSS feeds into a single view.)
MBA: Abbreviation for master of business arts. No periods.
metadata (n.): One word.
news feed (n.): Two words, lowercase.
news release: Use instead of "press release” whenever possible.
nonprofit: One word.
OK (n., v., adv.): To be used interchangeably with okay. Do not use variations such as Ok and o.k., which are incorrect.
opt-in (n., adj.), opt in (v.): Hyphenated as a noun or an adjective. Two words as a verb. (Examples: The opt-in has been disabled. To receive electronic statements, you must opt in.)
page view: Two words. The viewing of a web page by one visitor. (Example: Advertisers consider how many page views a site receives when deciding where and how to advertise.)
pay-per-click: Hyphenated (abbreviation: PPC).
plugin (n., adj.), plug in (v.): One word when used as a noun or adjective. Two words when used as a verb. (Examples: She needed to plug in her laptop to charge it. She downloaded a plugin for her web browser.)
podcast: One word.
pop-up (n., adj.), pop up (v.): Note hyphen when used as a noun or adjective. Not popup.
Two words when used as a verb. (Example: Get rid of pop-ups before they pop up. Stop pop-up ads from ever annoying you again.)
PPC: Abbreviation for pay-per-click.real-time (adj.), real time (n.):
retweet: Lowercase, not hyphenated.
RSS: Acronym for Really Simple Syndication. All capitals. Abbreviation is always acceptable, but avoid using RSS on its own, since few people know what it means. Use news feed, RSS news feed, or RSS reader as appropriate.salesperson, salespeople:
screen capture: Two words.
screencast: One word.
screen name: Two words.
screenshot: One word.
SEO: Abbreviation for search engine optimization.
setup (n., adj.), set up (v.): One word when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb. (Examples: Set up your Yahoo! store. Check your Yahoo! store setup. Your setup fee has been waived.)
sign-in (n., adj.); sign in, sign in to (v.): As a noun or an adjective, it’s hyphenated. As a verb, it’s two words, which may be followed by the preposition to. (Examples: All visitors must sign in on the sign-in page. Visitors can sign in to Yahoo! Mail automatically. Choose your preferences for sign-in and security.)
sign-out (n., adj.); sign out, sign out of (v.): As a noun or an adjective, it’s hyphenated. As a verb, it’s two words, which may be followed by the preposition of.
sign-up (n., adj.), sign up (v.): Hyphenate when used as a noun or an adjective. Two words when used as a verb. (Examples: Sign up for the service. Fill in the sign-up form. Sign-up is free.)
since: Not a synonym for “because.” Can be confused with the sense of “over the time that has passed” rather than “as a result of.” Use because instead of since when possible. Also applies to “due to” and “owing to” and “due to the fact that” and other, needlessly wordy ways of saying because.
site map: Two words.
slideshow (n., adj.): One word.
smartphone: One word.
SMB: Abbreviation for small and medium-size business (plural: SMBs).
SMO: Abbreviation for social media optimization.
social CRM: The word “social” here is lowercase. Abbreviation for social customer relationship
management, usually in regard to software platforms.
social network (n.), social-network (adj.): Two words when used as a noun. Note hyphen when used as an adjective. (Examples: Social-network analysis is a key technique in modern sociology. Add contacts to expand your social network.)
social networking (n.), social-networking (adj.): Note hyphen when used as an adjective. Two words when used as a noun. (Examples: The social-networking phenomenon has really taken off. To attract users, the site added social networking.)
software-as-a-service: Lowercase; hyphenated (abbreviation: SaaS).
spam (n., adj., v.): Lowercase when referring to unsolicited email or the act of sending such email.
startup (n., adj.), start up (v.): One word when used as a noun or an adjective (not hyphenated). Two words when used as a verb.
swag: Free goods. Not schwag or shwag.
text (n., v.): Short form of text message. Plural: texts. Other forms: texted, texting. (Examples: Did you get my text? Don’t text while driving. She was texting during the lecture.
text message (n.): Two words when used as a noun. Note hyphen when used as an adjective or a verb. (Examples: She had a heated text-message argument with her boyfriend. Did you get my text message? I’ll text-message you with the details.)
touchscreen (n., adj.): One word, not hyphenated.
toward: Not towards.
U.S. (n., adj.): Abbreviation for United States. Note periods, no space. Not US or U. S. The single exception is specifying currency in prices; in this case, do not include the periods. US $299.
USA: Abbreviation for United States of America. Abbreviation is always acceptable.
username: Lowercase, one word.
video camera: Two words.
videoconference: One word.
voicemail: One word, lowercase, not hyphenated. Not voice mail.web (n., adj.):
webcam: One word.
webcast: One word.
webhook: One word.
webinar: One word.
web page: Two words.
website: One word.
whitepaper: One word.
wiki: Lowercase. Plural: wikis.
word-of-mouth (n., adj.): Note hyphens when used as a noun or adjective.
What other commonly troublesome words would you add to this list?
Originally published Sep 13, 2012 12:40:00 PM, updated August 29 2017