Sometimes, contributions of technology and business to language may cause disputes, and finding consensus for using certain words becomes difficult. “Startup” or “start-up” or “start up” is one of them. But, which “startup” spelling is correct? The correct answer is there’s actually no correct answer, and all answers are correct.
The Correct Spelling of “Startup” Is…
It actually depends on the consistency of how you use it, and that’s what editorial style guides do—to maintain consistency. So, for example, AP Stylebook claims that it’s one word and can be an adjective and a noun.
Choose Something, Be Consistent
Personally, I try to do my own research and find a logical, rational solution. Most of the time, I use AP Stylebook as a guide, but I try to check how some of the publishers with unique traditions—e.g. The New Yorker—proceeds to solve linguistic issues. Also, don’t forget to look for comments by academicians as long as you won’t use them to legitimise your opinion. That would be the “appeal to authority” fallacy.
For large publishers, it’s a relatively straightforward case because they already have established editorial guidelines and experience with similar problems. For smaller publishers, it’s a different story.
What We Prefer at Startups of London
First, small publishers mostly lack any editorial guidelines or have limited ones, which usually improves as the editorial team encounters any conflicts regarding spelling and grammar. Second, creating a comprehensive editorial style guide requires excessive work. Believe me, been there, done that. Also, trying to keep the rest of the writer and editorial team following the guide is another subject, but for another conversation.
After thorough research, I try to develop a consistent and simply-explainable conclusion. For example, at Startups of London, we prefer spelling “startup” for noun, “start-up” for adjective, and “start up” for the verb. But, if the official name contains an alternative version, as it’s in the “Guide to Start-up Visa,” we go with the official name—most reasonable publishers do.
Bottom line: As long as you’re consistent with your choice of spelling and grammar, you’re probably doing the right thing.