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Compound Computer Terms: Part II

So which is it: Web site, web site, or website? Is this one word or two words? Should it be capitalized? The following examples from The Gregg Reference Manual (reproduced with permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies) should set you straight—at least until the rules change again!


In the following list, the two-word forms (shown first) are still more common, but the one-word forms are starting to take hold.


file name  OR:   filename              screen saver            OR:   screensaver  
home page OR: homepage spell checker OR: spellchecker
menu bar OR: menubar voice mail OR: voicemail

In the following list, the one-word forms (shown first) are more common, but the spaced or hyphenated forms are still being used.


barcode        OR:     bar code            logoff (n.) OR:    log-off           
handheld OR: hand-held BUT: log off (v.)            
hardwired OR: hard-wired logon (n.) OR: log-on
offline OR: off-line BUT: log on (v.)    
offscreen OR: off-screen touchpad OR: touch pad
online OR: on-line touchscreen OR: touch screen
onscreen OR: on-screen wordwrap OR: word wrap


In the following list, the hyphenated forms (shown first) are more common, but the solid or spaced forms are now being used in materials aimed at industry insiders.


drop-down menu OR:        dropdown menu                        
pull-down menu OR: pulldown menu
ink-jet printer OR: inkjet printer
random-access memory OR: random access memory


The following compound words are solid except in a few special cases:


desktop                      newsgroup                       uplink                                   
upload (n. & v.) download (n. & v.)           userid  (user ID)
keyword laptop toolbar
workstation backup (n. & adj.) BUT: back up (v.)


Compound words beginning with Web are usually two words:


Web site             Web server              BUT: Webmaster      
Web page Web browser BUT: Webcasting
Web surfer Web directory BUT: Weblog


NOTE: The term Web site is still most commonly written as two words with a capital W. However, along with a few other Web compounds, it has started to appear as a solid word without an initial cap (website). In order to maintain a consistent style, it is better to retain the capital W until a majority of these terms (such as the World Wide Web and the Web) lose their initial cap as well.¹

Now I'll add a note of my own. If you've spent any time on "the Web" lately, you know that many Web compounds have already lost their initial cap. I'm sure you've also noticed that in everyday usage, these words are typically written as one word, especially the words website and webpage. Now I'm not telling you to buck the official rules, but just keep your audience in mind when you're writing computer terms like these.

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1. William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual, Tenth Edition, McGraw-Hill/Irwin, New York, 2005, pp. 245-246. Reproduced with permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies.