Usage Notes

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

Style and usage changes of note

Our January 2021 update to Merriam-Webster.com 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.

'Antihysteric'

  • 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.

'Champagne'

  • 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

'Foxtrot'

  • 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.

'Okey-dokey'

  • 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


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