Anybody building a site in that requires users to create accounts is going to face this language challenge. You’ll probably have this language strewed across your entire site, from prominent calls-to-action in your homepage hero, to persistent header buttons, to your documentation.
So which is correct? “Sign Up” or “Signup”? Let’s try to figure it out.
With some light internet grammar research, the term “sign up” is a verbal phrase. As in, “sign” is a verb (describes an action) and “sign up” is a verb plus a complement — participial phrase, best I can tell. That sounds about right to me.
My best guess before looking into this was that “signup” isn’t even a word at all, and more of a lazy internet mistake. Just like “frontend” isn’t a word. It’s either “front-end” (a compound adjective as in a front-end developer), or “front end” (as in, “Your job is to work on the front end.”).
I was wrong, though. “Signup” is a noun. Like a thing. As in, “Go up the hallway past the water fountain and you’ll see the signup on the wall.” Which could certainly be a digital thing as well. Seems to me it wouldn’t be wrong to call a form that collects a user’s name and email address a “signup form.”
“Sign-up” is almost definitely wrong, as it’s not a compound word or compound adjective.
The fact that both “sign up” and “signup” are both legit words/phrases makes this a little tricky. Having a verbal phrase as a button seems like a solid choice, but I wouldn’t call it wrong to have a button that said “Signup” since the button presumably links directly to a form in which you can sign up and that’s the correct noun for it.
Let’s see what some popular websites do.
Twitter goes with “Sign Up” and “Log in.” We haven’t even talked about the difference between “Log in” and “Login,” but the difference is very much the same. Verbal phrase vs. noun. The only thing weird about Twitter’s approach here is the capitalization of “Up” and the lowercase “in.” Twitter seems giant enough that they must have thought of this and decided this intentionally, so I’d love to understand why because it looks like a mistake to my eyes.
Facebook, like Twitter, goes with “Sign Up” and “Log In.”
Google goes with “Sign in” and “Create account.” It’s not terribly rare to see companies use the “Create” verb. Visiting Microsoft’s Azure site, they used the copy “Create your account today” complemented with a “Start free” button. Slack uses “Sign in” and “Get Started.”
I can see the appeal of going with symmetry. Zoom uses “SIGN IN” and “SIGN UP” with the use of all-caps giving a pass on having to decide which words are capitalized.
Figma goes the “Sign In” and “Sign up” route, almost having symmetry — but what’s up with the mismatched capitalization? I thought, if anything, they’d go with a lowercase “i” because the uppercase “I” can look like a lowercase “L” and maybe that’s slightly weird.
At CodePen, we rock the “Sign Up” and “Log In” and try to be super consistent through the entire site using those two phrases.
If you’re looking for a conclusion here, I’d say that it probably doesn’t matter all that much. There are so many variations out there that people are probably used to it and you aren’t losing customers over it. It’s not like many will know the literal definition of “Signup.” I personally like active verb phrases — like “Sign Up,” “Log In,” or “Sign In” — with no particular preference for capitalization.
This is a problem I face every day. I write tech articles, but when I run a grammar check, suggestions for Sign Up range from Sign up to Sign-up – for website…web site, for Frontend…Front-end or Front end. The Internet has created a new language, however, these terms are not recognized by dictionaries yet! These dictionaries are used as the basis for grammar programs online. They should be added as they are – eg:- Signup, Frontend, Backend…
I wonder how long it took dictionaries to catch up after the telephone was invented, and if it’d been invented recently, I wonder if grammar programs would call it tele-phone or Tele phone?
Hi Susan, Remember that grammar check programs are not infallible and only present suggestions. It is still up to the human involved to know the rules and make the final decision. Yes, grammar and spell checkers do help and I use them myself. But they are not yet able to fully reason like an actual person and can’t perfectly ascertain intent in writing. Your example about what your grammar check says about “Sign Up” is incomplete because it doesn’t include whether you mean it in this particular instance as a noun or as a verb. As humans we may not always remember every minute particular of grammar rules but we should pretty much all know the conceptual difference between a noun and a verb. And even before the Internet came along people would still sign up for things, but they wouldn’t “signup” for them. The fact that you’re concerned with getting things correct is refreshing.
Actually, sign-up is the correct way to write when in noun or adjective form. Signup, as one word is wrong.
Take sign in for example: Go sign in over there (verb). That’s our sign-in sheet (adjective). You would never write it signin.
Personally I find “Sign In” rather irritating, as it sounds very similar to “Log In”. This makes discerning which is which rather difficult, esp. for non-native English speakers. More than often I’ve found myself wanting to actually LOG IN, when it turned out this was leading me to the registration process. Thus, I prefer “Register” over “Sign In”, and if thats not available, “Sign Up” works for me, too.
Shouldn’t your conclusion be that ‘sign up’ seems to be overly prevalent since you have zero instances of ‘signup’? There are barely any variations in your examples.
It’s like thankyou and thank you. And login and log in.
Each are legit but neither are interchangeable.
Sign up is a verb. Signup is a noun.
Linguist here. You’re right that ‘sign up’, ‘log in’, ‘log out’ and the like are all verb phrases, and in most cases this is what you’ll want to use. As you’ve mentioned, ‘signup’ and ‘login’ are also valid, bit are noun phrases, as in “The signup is on the first page; make sure you have a unique login”. But the hyphenated forms are valid as well, and are the most common forms when what you want is an adjective phrase: “Go to the sign-up page and fill in your information, then you should be able to use your log-in credentials to access your account”. Interestingly enough, the noun phrases can also be hyphenated, in which case they look the same as the adjective phrases.
I use old stuff register and login.
But what about “log in” vs “log on”? :D
Defintely a realm for discussion as well. :)
I dunno, this attitude seems uncomfortably close to laziness for my liking. We should be doing the right thing simply because it’s the right thing to do, especially in when it takes so little effort to do so. It’s a matter of pride.
It always looks unprofessional to me when people get that wrong.
If you enroll your friend, you “sign them up.” You don’t “signup them,” as you would if “signup” were a verb.
Similarly, you perform a login by “logging in,” not by “loginning.”
Compound nouns in English move from two words to a hyphenated word to a non-hyphenated word. I’m old and had to train myself out of putting a hyphen in “email.” English is a language that mutates fairly quickly and we pedants have to live with it. Once the style guides start accepting it (e.g. AP and Chicago start decreeing that we should write “email” instead of “e-mail), it’s acceptable practice to everyone but your high school grammar teacher, who keeps insisting that grammar has rules rather than conventions.
So far verbs have resisted this process, probably because we need to be able to distinguish between nouns and verbs and English is not a highly inflected language. Like German (which is a highly inflected language), English has a collection of verbs with what are known as separable prefixes. The prefix changes the meaning of the verb: “sign in” and “sign on” might have more or less identical meanings (lots of languages use the same word for “in” and “on”), but neither means the same thing as “sign”.
Mistakes about these things do look unprofessional, so hire a proofreader to go over your microcopy if you struggle with this.
Think of all of us who live outside of English-speaking countries and use Login/Register for our sake.
I don’t think Twitter was intentional with the capitalisation of the sign up button, I found two with “Sign Up” and another two with “Sign up”.
Twitter seems to have ‘corrected’ the capital usage ;)