What’s in a name?
Is the old adage by Shakespeare true that “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet”?
Words matter. They shape our perception of things, and in a day and age where Google can make or break a business or blog, the popularity of words and how they’re spelled, has never been more important.
While there are thousands of words that I could write about, the one that is most important to me and my work is coworking, or as some people insist on spelling it, co-working.
Definition: Coworking vs Co-working
According to Wikipedia, coworking is “an arrangement in which several workers from different companies share an office space, allowing cost savings and convenience through the use of common infrastructures, such as equipment, utilities, and receptionist and custodial services, and in some cases refreshments and parcel acceptance services.” The entire article uses coworking without a hyphen.
Dictionary.com defines coworking as “an arrangement by which freelancers or remote employees working for various companies share an office or other workspace (often used attributively): the monthly fee for a coworking space.” It defaults to coworking being spelled without the hyphen but does give co-working as an alternative spelling.
Both of these examples seem to be common regardless of where you search online, and that’s part of the problem. It’s almost impossible to find “official” sites that are willing to come outright and say that coworking should not be spelled with a hyphen.
While we might be able to find an infinite number of sites and opinions online about which spelling is correct, here are my reasons as to why we need to drop the hyphen permanently and end this debate once and for all.
In May 2018, the Associated Press Stylebook changed co-working to coworking, officially dropping the hyphen. The Associated Press Stylebook is a popular choice for writers and editors across the world.
Many of its other changes have now become normal use both in the writing world and everyday use for non-writers as well. In 2010, it changed web site to website, and in 2011 they took the spaces out of cell phone and smart phone and also ditched the hyphen in e-mail.
The history of the English language is filled with ideas and inventions that made the grammatical evolution from two words, to hyphenated and finally becoming accepted as one word.
Why is this?
Many writers tend to feel that hyphens mess up the flow of words and writing, not to mention just looking bad. Could you imagine still spelling downstairs as down-stairs? Or wireless as wire-less? It makes no sense visually or grammatically.
Language is already filled with confusing rules and terminology. There’s no reason to add to it by hyphenating a word that needs no hyphen. After all, people who work in coworking spaces aren’t co-workers.
Each person there is typically doing their own work and usually identify as freelancers. While coworking spaces provide many opportunities for networking and collaborating, using the term co-working implies that the people there are co-workers, and they aren’t.
Although coworking spaces have been around for a while, it’s only been the past few years that they’ve really become popular worldwide. It’s important to have a word that isn’t confusing to newcomers and could give them the wrong idea about what to expect when joining a coworking space.
Having an official proper spelling of coworking isn’t just important because of the impression it can give people, it also has monetary implications as well.
Anyone with a blog or business knows how important using the right words and hashtags can be when trying to attract new customers and clients online.
SEO and Hashtags
There are two key aspects when it comes to getting your name out online, regardless of how you choose to do it; SEO and hashtags.
Even if you think you aren’t familiar with SEO, you are. It affects every bit of research you do on the internet and plays a vital role in every single result that Google shows you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to find a contractor to remodel your bathroom, looking for statistics on how many marriages end because of a home remodel, or you want to know how many teeth a narwhal has. SEO is what gets those results to you.
As I stated earlier, words matter, and this is especially true when it comes to SEO.
For those of you not familiar with SEO, it stands for “search engine optimization,” and is probably the most important way for you to increase your site’s visibility online.
Search engines as popular as Google and as rare as DuckDuckGo all use apps to search sites all over the internet. They collect the information they find and put it into an index. Algorithms then analyse the pages to figure out what order websites should appear when finding results for a term/keyword search.
There are 6 categories that makeup SEO results, the most important category is keywords.
The word (or words) that people use to search for the information they are looking for is the keyword. Knowing what keywords to include on your website is the key to getting your page posted on the first or second page of results on a search engine. Since most people rarely go past the third page of results, you want your keywords to be as spot on as possible.
That is why spelling coworking without the hyphen is so important. People rarely use any type of punctuation when searching for something online. It’s been proven that using coworking on your website will get you more visitors to your website simply because when they decided to search for information about coworking, they didn’t add the hyphen.
Another area in which the spelling of a word is important to “getting the word out” is hashtags.
Hashtags are words or phrases with the hash sign in front of them. They are used online, especially social media sites like Twitter and Instagram, that make it easy to find posts on a specific topic.
This is another area in which people rarely use punctuation. Try going to Twitter and searching for #co-working and then #coworking. Not using the hyphen will give you far more results.
Not having one set way of spelling coworking in the coworking community isn’t always confusing, but can affect business as well. If we all agreed on a uniform way to spell the word, it would allow us to have more business-driven to our websites and make it easier to inform the public about the benefits of coworking spaces and why they are so important. Not surprisingly, most of the pushback received from removing the hyphen from coworking doesn’t come from the community itself.
The coworking community is a unique one. You have a group of people who tend to be loaners in their work, yet choose, for one reason or another, to join a space that allows them the choice to socialize with people of their own free will.
This is one of the biggest examples given when people defend getting rid of the hyphen in coworking. The people at these places are not co-workers. Being a co-worker is something that is pretty much forced. When you work at a company, you don’t really get to decide who your co-workers are. In fact, working with colleagues who cause you stress is one of the major reasons people decide to start freelancing and eventually renting their own spot at a coworking place.
Coworking allows you the option of working independently even when you’re surrounded by other people. While most decided it’s a good opportunity to network, it’s never something you’re forced into. You’re simply working in the same spot, not necessarily working together.
Cat Johnson, one of the most famous names in the coworking scene, talked to some of the top coworking space owners to find out their opinions on the coworking vs. co-working debate, and the answers were pretty similar across the board; the hyphen needs to go.
“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
“At the start, we were confused about which one to use because there’s no formal word for coworking without the hyphen. So it’s good to know now that what we’re using is a legitimate word already.” –Reena Labanan, Happy Hive Coworking
“As someone who has spent the better part of her life correcting people on the spelling of her own name, it’s my experience that those who actually take the time to learn a given name, also genuinely care about your personal brand, who you are, and what you stand for.
I apply this directly to Coworking. I spend a good chunk of time (as we all do) explaining just what this movement is within startup ecosystems and the workspace industry; and those who don’t care about the proper spelling tend not to understand the communities we are building or the ventures we support. It’s a micro-aggression that I honestly didn’t have time to continue addressing. I’m too busy building ecosystems, fostering economic development, and supporting people in the non-stop world of the startup grind.” —Shervonne Cherry, Spark Baltimore
Some people say that spelling coworking with a hyphen or not is a preference, and that is partially true. The important part of that statement though is that the majority of people who actually work in the coworking space want to drop the hyphen. And since we’re the ones who are actually writing, educating and creating information to help inform people on the benefits of coworking spaces, wouldn’t we get to be the ones to decide on how to spell it, especially when a single search engine query can make or break our business? I think we should.