U of M style conundrums

I walked over to a colleague’s office demanding an answer. “Dang it, Bill. Once and for all, is it ‘health care’ two words or ‘healthcare’ one word? Two words as a noun and one word as an adjective?”

Bill laughed, shook his head, and said, “You had to bring that up.”

So I’m bringing it up here as an example of a word usage challenge that comes up a lot at the U of M. Like, all the time. It’s one of a few rule and style conundrums worth discussing, even if the answers are seemingly up for debate and possibly apt to change over time.

Health care vs. healthcare

I’ve been fretting over this one for a few years now and am annoyed that there’s nothing approaching consensus. Merriam-Webster lists the noun “health care” as two words—with “healthcare” being just a variant— and it’s “usually hyphenated when used attributively” (health-care costs). The AP Stylebook suggested the two-word form “health care” as a noun and “health-care” as an adjective, but a Twitter post in 2019 announced it should be “health care” in all cases, even as an adjective. “Healthcare” as one word is a variant that is becoming more and more prevalent; some suggest it has a use in denoting the industry itself or a specific system or facility. At the U of M, usage is all over the map. Unless your unit prefers differently, we suggest using “health care” as a noun and “health-care” as an adjective.

Well-being vs. wellbeing

This is another compound word on the move. For years, well-being (the state of being well, happy, or prosperous) has always been hyphenated; that’s the official spelling for Merriam-Webster, and all compound modifiers with “well” at the beginning are hyphenated. But at the University of Minnesota, it’s now increasingly “wellbeing,” with no hyphen. That’s how it’s used at the Medical School, the Bakken Center for Spirituality & Healing, and Recreation and Wellness, among others. When referring to these entities and their programs, use their style.  

Under way vs. underway

Last on our list of words with evolving spellings/usages is underway. For years I’d been changing underway to under way, since underway used to only be an adjective, and a rarely used one at that. But I’ve been told to get with the times. Underway is now acceptable. A good explanation comes from the blog Grammarphobia:

Q: I’d love to understand why it’s apparently now acceptable to cast “under way” as “underway”—one word, not two. “Negotiations are underway” just seems wrong!

A: Yes, “under way,” an expression that began life as two words, is increasingly—and more popularly—being written as one. Today you can use either version and be in respectable company.

Academic titles

University of Minnesota styles on titles can seem confusing at first glance, but they’re easy once you remember the rules. Titles are uppercase before the name (Professor Marvin Martian) unless they’re descriptive (professor of anthropology Marvin Martian). After the name, titles are [almost] always lowercase (Susan Venusian, professor of biology). One notable exception for both before and after the name is for Regents Professors and holders of endowed chairs or professorships. Example: Emily Jupiter, Regents Professor in Agricultural Education.

The ‘St. Paul campus’

There is no “St. Paul campus,” as most of us know. The U of M has five campuses—in Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester, and the Twin Cities. At the Twin Cities campus, it gets tricky, because there are three distinct areas: the East Bank, the West Bank, and St. Paul. But technically, as our editorial style guide states, we don’t call those areas campuses. No East Bank campus or St. Paul campus. Instead, it’s the east bank of the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis and the Twin Cities campus in St. Paul.

What we say in speech is another matter, and I’m sure the “St. Paul campus” will continue to rule there.

These are just a few challenging and common usage issues that we may face. If you have a strong opinion on these or have other issues to suggest for discussion, send a note to moore112@umn.edu.