What’s in a name? Specifically, what’s in a hyphenated name used to describe a movement?

We pioneers in the movement have long lamented the hyphenation of the word “coworking.”

As movement leader Carsten Foertsch, founder of Deskmag, wrote in a 2011 article: “Small distinctions may seem tedious, but they can have large ramifications…. Most coworking spaces prefer to spell their own name without a hyphen, because they believe their concept is fundamentally different from the relationship between two employees in an old-fashioned company.”

Now, the arbiter of word style (at least news writing style) has legitimized our demands!

Earlier this year the AP Stylebook clarified the style of “coworking, as in sharing a work space but not having the same employer.”

Why is this important?

Writing in AllWork’s blog Jo Meunier notes some other changes the AP Stylebook has made over the years:

  • “In 2011, e-mail changed to email.
  • In the same year, cell phone and smart phone changed to cellphone and smartphone.
  • In 2010, it changed ‘web site’ to ‘website.’

“Today, those original hyphenated terms look odd and antiquated. Reporters attending the AP Stylebook announcement in 2011 noted that ‘the use of ‘e-mail’ was seen as a relic of an earlier age, when the Internet was new to most people and the idea of ‘electronic mail’ was confusing.’

“The same goes for coworking.

“Coworking has become its own industry and it’s no longer ‘new to people.'”

Leaders respond

Coworking content strategist Cat Johnson asked a number of members of her Coworking Content Alliance why they think this seemingly irrelevant change matters.

“‘Because we aren’t ‘co-workers’ who work for the same company. We work WITH fellow coworkers. Coworking = work WITH coworkers, not FOR co-workers.’ — Jerome Chang, Blankspaces

“‘It’s an acknowledgement of the movement we are building.’ — Ashley Proctor, GCUC Canada, CoHIP

“‘When I started coworking and created the term I very consciously dropped the hyphen. My intention is for coworking to be closer to the word collaboration, which does not have a hyphen, rather than co-worker. I also wanted the term to feel informal, and a dash in coworking felt awkward and difficult to type.’ — Brad Neuburg, creator of coworking

“‘Coworking’ is literally what Brad Neuberg invented in 2005. It’s what Tara and Chris took and ran with, creating the Coworking Google Group, the Coworking Blog, and so on. Dozens of people found the word and started using it to describe their disparate projects around the world. Dozens turned to hundreds turned to thousands. To add a hyphen strips the word of its context and its origins. It implies the lowest common denominator, something devoid of meaning and context. Coworking has a story. It’s a word that was invented and shared and rallied around. It’s become a household name because of the movement that arose around it. It has a deep meaning that should not be forgotten. That’s why this is important.” — Tony Bacigalupo, New Work Cities

We’ve been hyphen-less since we started BEAHIVE in 2009 and will remain so for as long as we remain.

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