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Is copywriting one word or two words?

Is copywriting one word or two words? What about copywriter?

That depends on your style guide.

Dictionary.com, whose sources include Random House Unabridged Dictionary, the American Heritage Dictionary, and Harper Collins, lists “copywriting” as one word in the derived forms list of their “copywriter” entry.

But search “copywriting” in Merriam–Webster’s online interface, and you get the following error message:

The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary. Click on a spelling suggestion below or try again using the search bar above.

Within the spelling suggestions, Merriam–Webster offers “copywriter” and “copyediting”—note that “copyediting” is one word, but “copy writing” is not, and while they list “copywriter” as one word, they list “copy editor” as two.

What’s the deal, MW?

To make things even more confusing, “copyedit” is one word, but “copywrite” isn’t … instead, you “write copy.”

What does Google have to say?

Here are the search results for each of the following terms:

Copywriting: 20,600,000 results

“copy writing”: 480,000 results

copywriter: 21,000,000 results

“copy writer”: 519,000 results (with the note “Did you mean: ‘copywriter’”

copyeditor: 3,380,000 results

“copy editor” 3,380,000 results

copyediting: 2,980,000 results

“copy editing”: 1,390,000 results

With the exception of “copy editor”—which tied in terms of Google search results with the single-word “copyeditor” (you’ve got to give credit to the copyeditors covering all of their bases!)—each phrase is used more often as a single compound word.

Grammarly, the free writing app, also suggests the single-word version “copywriter” if you type in “copy writer.”

Merriam–Webster might have a great social media team, but we think it’s about time their lexicographers got with the times and updated their entries. That is, unless they want to make themselves out to be prescriptivists…

The final word

When in doubt, go with the more commonly used version. In this case, it’s the single-word version pretty much across the board.

For further reading, see our post, Is Website One Word or Two?

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