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This space intentionally left blank: Login is not a verb

As content on the web becomes more personalized, just about every website asks you to create an account and log in for a better experience. You probably click on “Log in” links and buttons several times a day without much regard for their presentation. That means you might not see anything wrong with this picture:

Compilation of website screenshots showing buttons and links with Login and Logout

But there is something wrong with that picture: login is not a verb. A link or button that says “login” is like a search field with a submit button labelled “Terms” — it’s not an action.

Log in and log out are the proper verbs to use in these scenarios. Just like you would say someone “logged in” instead of “logined” or offer to let someone “sign in” instead of “signin”, there should be a space to use the verb form.

Here’s a quick explanation of various uses:

Log in and log out are phrasal verbs.
These verbs should be used in links and buttons where the user is to take an action, such as navigating to a page for logging in or submitting a form. Similar verbs include “log on”, “sign in”, and “sign on”.
Examples:
  • I need to log in before I can log out, silly!
  • Logging in is such a chore; I wish my browser knew my identity.
  • I tried to log in to the system, but my login was invalid. (note the use of “log in to” instead of “log into”)
Login is a noun.
Login can refer to the credentials you use to obtain access to a system. This word is in some dictionaries, but not all.
Examples:
  • I tried all of the logins I could think of, but none of them worked!
  • Login problems? Reset your password below.
Logout is not a word.
Given log out as the correct verb and my inability to find it in a dictionary, it looks like logout isn’t a word at all. Let’s be on the safe side and always use log out.

Just remember: if you can replace log in with authenticate in a sentence, it’s a verb and should have a space. If authenticate doesn’t make sense as a replacement, it’s a noun.

So, if your website is asking users to “login”, please switch to using a verb instead. And if you know someone who could benefit from a quick lesson, please pass this on to them.

Compilation of website screenshots showing correct usage of log in

6 comments

Havvy

Language changes with time, I’m afraid. Saying something is not a verb does not make it true. It is a verb if it is used as a verb, plain and simple. Sure, there might be a ‘standard’, but like web standards, they are created only through the addition of nonstandard words. (A standard created without an implementation is no standard)

Jim B

Havvy, I guess you didn’t see the rejected title listed at the end of the post. The author is well aware that he is picking a nit. However, Justin is right — there is a difference between “log in” and “login.” Ignoring common usage and claiming a word means precisely what you intend it to mean is right from Alice in Wonderland. A word develops a new meaning when a preponderance of people start using it in the new way, not simply when a handful are abusing its original meaning. “Google” became an acceptable verb quickly because a great many people started using it that way. I’m also sure those early adopters were well aware they were “verbing” the noun, and not simply confusing two similar phrases. See, I can do it too. :-)

As for your assertion that new web standards are only created by addition of nonstandard use, I think you have chosen a very poor analogy.

My own least favorite grammatical sin seems to appear only in spoken use, not written: “Alls”. eg, “Alls I need is ten more minutes and I’ll be done.”

nixar

What’s with the hating? “Login” is a very cromulent verb.

Greg K Nicholson

Havvy: “login” isn’t used as a verb. When was the last time you loginned to anything?

Smokey Ardisson

This is one of my pet peeves, too; thanks for writing about it. I have an unfinished post somewhere about its friends “setup” and “backup” that I really should find and publish.

Simon

@Greg – think of it as a very irregular verb (God knows, English has enough of them). While I prefer ‘Log In” myself, people are clearly quite happy being inconsistent about “to login” vs “logged in”.

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