You Could Look It Up

Q. Hi—I have researched this but would like a definitive answer. Is it “cell phone” or “cellphone”? Merriam-Webster shows it as “cell phone” but “smartphone” is one word.

Q. I am copyediting an article about a brand of software. The article repeatedly uses the term dialog, but Merriam-Webster prefers the spelling dialogue. However, the software uses dialog in all its documentation. Which spelling does CMOS prefer in this case? Thank you.

Q. In formal writing, I have been shown by my coworkers that U.S. is the way to write United States. However, I was always told that very few abbreviations are to be used in formal writing, and the abbreviation U.S. should never be used in replacement of United States when writing federal documents.

Q. Is impactful a word and can it be used in place of influential?

Q. I’ve always followed this advice in Chicago: “If, as occasionally happens, the Collegiate disagrees with the Third International, the Collegiate (or its online counterpart) should be followed, since it represents newer lexical research.” We subscribe to the online Unabridged (which also includes the Collegiate), and lately this advice no longer seems to apply consistently. Merriam-Webster seems to be updating entries in the Unabridged and leaving the Collegiate with the older version. For example, the Unabridged has life-span while the Collegiate has life span. Typically, the hyphenated version would be the more up to date.

Q. In the early 1930s, my grandmother won a citywide crossword puzzle contest in New York City, earning the $1,000 prize at a time when money was tight. The winning word was qobar, a word that no longer appears in even unabridged dictionaries. Once a word is a word, isn’t it always a word?