LawProse Lesson #213: Caselaw: one word or two?

LawProse Lesson #213: Caselaw: one word or two?

Caselaw: one word or two? Two-syllable noun phrases often begin as separates, then become hyphenated, and then become solidified. Take, for example, the word today. It started as two words {to day}. In the 19th century it was commonly hyphenated {to-day}. The Century Dictionary (1895) listed to-day as the preferred form with today as a variant. In 1934 the venerable Webster’s New International Dictionary (2d ed.) still listed the hyphenated form, but preferred today. Today it is invariably solid. So how about case law vs. case-law vs. caselaw? The multisyllable decisional law could never be solidified. But for the two-syllable caselaw, we made the editorial decision to write it as one word in Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage and Black’s Law Dictionary. Although Merriam-Webster’s spells it as two words, we agree with The Chicago Manual of Style: “[Our] general adherence to Webster’s does not preclude occasional exceptions when the closed spellings have become widely preferred by writers (e.g., website) and pronunciation and readability are not at stake.” In fact, our forthcoming treatise—written with 13 appellate judges—is tentatively titled Caselaw. Further reading: Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 136 (3d ed. 2011). The Redbook: A Manual on Legal Style §§ 7.16–7.17, at 137–38 (3d ed. 2014). The Chicago Manual of Style §7.79, at 373 (16th ed. 2010). Black’s Law Dictionary 259 (10th ed. 2014).

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