Hey, You Know What’s Not a Word? ‘On-premise’ is Not a Word

For the most part, I've been holding my tongue on this topic for some time now, but I can no longer maintain my silence in good conscience.  Granted, what I'm about to say, I say in self-defense as much as I say it as an instance of, shall we say, editorial humanitarianism, but I say it in the sincere hope of changing the behavior of droves of tech writers out there.

I'll let you in on a secret:  All editors, even easygoing guys like me, have their personal editorial pet peeves, those commonly misspelled words or grammatical errors that just put us on tilt.  Well, with cloud computing rocketing into the mainstream over the past few years, the one that has shot straight to the top spot on my own editorial pet peeves hit list is the growing popularity of the misspelling of the word "on-premises."

It's a perfectly good word, and we all know what it means and (you would think) how it's spelled, right?  That being the case, why is it that a truly shocking number of otherwise intelligent individuals consistently drop the "s," rendering the word completely nonsensical?

Now, before you say, "But John, I see 'on-premise' written all the time," I will certainly grant you that "on-premise" (no "s") is sadly encountered in the wild these days far more often than is the correct spelling ("on-premises," including the all-important "s").  Here's the thing though: a premise is a thought, a concept, an idea.  "Premises," on the other hand, refers to a structure (or group of structures) on a tract of land, and this (typically in the form of an office) is what we refer to when we write "on-premises."

Stop me if I sound out of line.  Big Smile

I've been privately tilting against windmills for at least a couple of years now on the matter, but when yet another smart colleague of mine consistently misspelled the word in a piece I was editing recently, I decided it was past time for me to blog the matter and see what I could do to stop the bleeding.  The bleeding of editors' ulcers, that is.

And so, please consider this a humble plea on behalf of tech editors the world over.  Can we all please either restore the "s" to its rightful place at the end of the (misspelled) word or, as a reasonable compromise, agree to institutionalize the abbreviated form of the word, "on-prem"?  This abbreviated usage has been coming on strong as an alternative of late, and it's a trend I heartily support given that it neatly sidesteps the spelling issue entirely while maintaining the integrity of the word.

On-premises.  It's a perfectly good word.  It only wants to be loved, and it would never dream of hurting you.  Please don't hurt it.

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