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Website or Web Site: One Word, or Two?

Fast answer: website is most commonly recognized and used as one word.

I know this is a question that we all toss and turn about in bed at night. 

A quick multiple choice test:  Which of the following is the right way to write it?

A. web site

B. website

C. web-site

D. Web site

E. Web Site

F. Some cutesy spelling, like wEbsiTE  (Please don’t pick this one)

Maybe you have a preference that you tend to use yourself.  Maybe you just go with whatever you feel like in the moment.  But is there a correct way to write it that you should be using?

Let’s cut this Gordian Knot by taking a look at a few arguments for the use of different versions of it, and also see whouses it how.

The one and only Google appears to have chosen website.  Since Google is taking over the world, I think this carries some weight.  When I mentioned this in an office discussion, Rob, our Project Coordinator said, “If Google jumped off a bridge, would you too?”  Touché, Rob, touché.   If that’s what it took to get one of our customers’ websites higher on search engines, I just might.

Tim, one of our consultants, had an interesting take on it. He said, “What about a landing site?  You don’t exactly see the word landingsite, as one word.  So web site makes sense.”  A valid point indeed.

Grammar Dictators seem to think that Web site is the proper way, and that the first word needs to be capitalized.  For example, MLA, the Modern Language Association, which dictates proper writing style and makes the lives of students everywhere more difficult (or should I say, “difficulter”), uses Web site.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune uses website, as one word.

Facebook, everybody’s favorite time waster, uses website, as one word.
When I open up a new tab in my Firefox browser window, the address bar says, “Go to a Web Site.”

Seth Godin, an Internet marketing genius, uses Web site in his excellent book, Linchpin. (Although on his blog he uses website.)

Yes, I realize that by this point I may have given more confusion than clarity on this topic.

So who's right?

We are, of course. I mean, Google and Facebook are on the same side as us, and are you really going to doubt Google and Facebook? I kid, I kid. In reality, there is no consensus. 

Back in my college days at the University of Minnesota, I took a course called The History of English Words. We studied the etymologies of various words, and while it sounds extremely stuffy and boring, it was actually quite interesting. One of the things that stuck with me from that class is that many of the “correct” English words we have today have come from common misuse. So if the general public misuses a word enough, the misused version actually becomes the correct version. Words can evolve over time (Or devolve, depending on how you look at it).

So what are “the people” using?  Using Google Trends, a tool that analyzes how popular various web searches are, I did a search to see how often the search term website is searched for, compared to the search term web site. The results?

 fisrt blog

Right or wrong, The People have chosen "website". 

In the big scheme of things, it’s still a very new term. Maybe, in the end, the masses will win and we’ll all be using one word. Maybe the grammar snobs will win and we’ll be using two words with a capitalized W. I personally have been swayed toward writing it as one word (I converted a few years ago), but I think that any of them work just fine and that you should feel free to use whichever one you’d like to.

However, whichever version you choose, it’s a good idea to be consistent. When we rolled out our new site, we had to make a decision about what version of the term to use. After some debate, we decided to officially use website. So now we’re trying to consistently stick to that. 

That is, once we run out of all the business cards and print material we have that still say ”web site.”

Tell us what you think!