Think fast, should it be one or two words? Or should it be hyphenated?
“Line up” or “lineup” or “line-up”? It’s one of those language questions that can have you staring at the blinking cursor on your screen. Hopefully, this quandary isn’t one that crosses the line of something that has you blinking and cursing at your screen.
But when I ask, “which version is correct,” it’s admittedly a bit of a trick question. It can be one word or two, depending on your goals with it.
Is it a verb, where you are lining something up? Children, pencils, chess pieces? If you’re saying, “line up, everyone,” or realizing it’s time to line up your nesting dolls—one next to its smaller sister, next to its smaller sister, next to its smaller sister—it’s two words.
Is it a noun, where you’re referring to the group? Your fantasy football team lineup or the lineup for tonight’s performance? If so, it is one word, no space, no hyphen. I know you want that hyphen, but it’s really not necessary.
But what about that hyphen? You never actually need it. Sure, maybe you could get away with it when you’re using it as an adjective, as in the coaches’ “line-up” decisions, but notice my wording here. “Maybe, you could get away with it.” The recommended version, even when acting as an adjective, is the one word form.
So in short, lineup (one word) is a noun or adjective. Line up (two words) is a verb.
That’s not too tricky, right? “Pick up” / “Pickup” and “Set up” / “Setup” work the same way.
The one-word form is a noun or adjective. The two-word form is a verb.
There’s not any English language grammar offenders lineup, where you’re going to be called out by folks wielding red pens poised for the attack. You know I’m here to take down the idea of grammar police, not because they don’t have things to teach us, but because it’s not the attitude we need right now. Let’s embrace helping each other and trying to be better versions of ourselves. In life—as in grammar—this is how we change the world.
Maybe today, our efforts are as simple as striking a hyphen, but who knows what’s next?