It’s ‘underway,’ and it’s no big deal

AP caused a minor flap last week by declaring “underway” to be one word in all uses. The editors of the AP Stylebook made the announcement at a copy editors conference, and the reaction was grumble, grumble, grumble, fine.

For years, newspaper copy editors have dutifully separated “under” and “way” with a space, because AP told us to. And the more we did it, the righter it seemed. The only solid “underway” allowed was as an adjective: an underway flotilla.

But AP has been known to flipflop (or flip-flop, or flip flop) on things like this before, and we’ve all survived. Remember “backyard” as an adjective, “back yard” as a noun? It took me about five seconds to adapt to “backyard” in all uses, and now I prefer it.

If everyone knows what you’re talking about, why cling to a prissy distinction?

Sure, I feel a bit sad that a rule I internalized is no longer in vogue—much as I felt when my beloved stone-washed, pleated, high-waisted bluejeans from 1993 were  derided just a few short years later as “mom jeans.” Dammit, I could still zip those!

But I gave up the pants, and I gave up “back yard,” and I will give up “under way.”

I’m sure the copy editors of the early 1900s griped  when “up-stairs” became “upstairs” and “to-morrow” gave way to “tomorrow.” They got over it, too.


Worn with a belt and a tucked-in shirt, of course. The white socks were always optional.



One Response

  1. Geoff T.
    Geoff T. April 9, 2013 at 2:51 pm | | Reply

    I remember long ago playing UNDERWAY in a Scrabble game and getting it challenged (it’s fine), which I thought very strange at the time, since I’d always considered it one word – it wasn’t until I got an editing job and read Garner’s that I knew newspapers rendered it as two. (Garner agrees with the move to the one-word version in all uses.)

Leave a Reply