Amy Groshek Avocation and Vocation

"Setup" vs. "Set Up"

I know that we programmers are all math people and can't punctuate a real, live sentence meant to be read by humans to save our lives. Nevertheless, it would be good of us to commit one very simple grammatical distinction to memory: "setup" and "set up" are not interchangeable.

"Setup" is a noun or adjective:

Let me have a look at your setup.

These setup instructions have a lot of grammatical errors.

"Set up" is a verb:

She set up my iPad for me.

Set up your development environment by following the instructions below.

In no instance should "setup" be used as a verb. For example, the following is incorrect:

We'll just setup Apache for our basic project, and we'll do so using a shell script.

~ http://docs.vagrantup.com/v2/getting-started/provisioning.html

It should be:

We'll just set up Apache for our basic project, and we'll do so using a shell script.

Technical writing is full of these sneaky grammatical conflations. Another very common example is "login" and "log in." The distinction is the same: "login" is a noun or adjective, and "log in" is a verb.

It's good to make these distinctions, especially when writing documentation for the general public. Our users read our documentation in order to understand and use our product or project. They are by definition investing time in our vision. Let's be courteous with their time, and do our best to avoid making them nauseous with repeated grammatical errors.

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