An Editor's Guide to the Merriam-Webster January 2021 Update

Style and usage changes of note

Our January 2021 update to includes some changes that are likely to interest editors especially. As with all the additions and edits made to our dictionaries, these changes are based on a careful review of usage evidence.


  • An anti- compound has acquired an additional styling.

former styling: anti-hysteric

new styling: anti-hysteric or antihysteric

'Black' as an Adjective and Noun

  • Particular uses of both the adjective and noun black are now identified as being typically capitalized. See black entry 1 sense 2 and black entry 2 sense 4. The noun also includes a revised note about singular and plural use.

NOTE: Use of the noun Black in the singular to refer to a person is considered offensive. The plural form Blacks is still commonly used by Black people and others to refer to Black people as a group or community, but the plural form too is increasingly considered offensive, and most style guides advise writers to use Black people rather than Blacks when practical.


  • Capitalization of the bubbly is now recognized.

former styling: champagne

new styling: champagne or less commonly Champagne

'Cul-de-sac' Plurals

  • The order of plural variants at cul-de-sac has been reversed.

former styling: cul-de-sac noun, plural culs-de-sac also cul-de-sacs

new styling: cul-de-sac noun, plural cul-de-sacs also culs-de-sac


  • Alternate forms of the noun fox-trot have been added.

former styling: fox-trot

new styling: foxtrot or less commonly fox-trot or fox trot noun, plural foxtrots also fox-trots or fox trots

'Manned' and 'Unmanned'

  • The entry for manned and unmanned now includes a usage discussion.

While manned and unmanned are still commonly used in news sources to describe spaceflights, NASA has since the early 21st century used and prescribed non-gender-specific terms, preferring such descriptors as human, piloted, and crewed for the former, and unpiloted and uncrewed for the latter.


  • A folksy adverb used to express assent or to emphasize the beginning of a statement has additional forms.

former styling: okeydoke or okeydokey

new styling: okey dokey or okey-dokey or okeydokey or okey doke or okey-doke or okeydoke

'Tear gas'

  • The verb tear gas now has three forms noted.

former styling: tear gas

new styling: tear-gas or tear gas or less commonly teargas; tear-gassed or tear gassed also teargassed; tear-gassing or tear gassing also teargassing; tear-gases or tear gasses also teargasses