Is It Coworker or Co-Worker?


If you have a job, you probably have people you work with. But what should you call them?

Before you answer with something off the cuff, know that we are talking about the different spellings of coworker and co-worker. Which one is grammatically correct?

We have the answer in today’s post.

You Can’t Pick Your Coworkers, but You Can Choose Your Co-Worker Hyphenation

The shortest answer to the coworker versus co-worker discussion is that it’s a trick question: Both are valid as a noun that refers to someone else who works alongside you.

The spellings are different yet similar because both became common throughout the years. In other words, some teachers and editors prefer one version (and pass it on to their students or readers), while their colleagues prefer another. That means the decision of whether to write coworker or co-worker is often a matter of a writer’s choice.

If you can use either coworker or co-worker as you please, does it matter which one you apply? It probably doesn’t make a big difference, but we still have a recommendation to make.

How Should You Choose Between Coworker and Co-Worker?

If neither coworker nor co-worker seems particularly compelling to you, we will recommend you go with the nonhyphenated spelling, coworker.

This isn’t a matter of a “right” or “wrong” spelling. Instead, it comes down to a practical consideration: Co-worker requires more thought and energy to type or write out by hand. Why slow yourself down if the two meanings are the same?

We suspect we aren’t the only ones who think so, given that the simpler coworker seems to be preferred in modern media and text. As we have noted on our blog in the past, it’s always a good idea to stay in the mainstream whenever possible because it allows you to devote less time explaining or defending your work. We would rather have your readers’ focus be on your ideas than on issues of detail that are narrowing and becoming more obscure.

One last note before we go: As a concept, a co-worker differs from the action of co-working, which typically involves unaffiliated persons sharing a working space. When expressed as a verb, that word is typically hyphenated to help ensure clarity. Be sure to keep that in mind when considering the spelling variations we’ve discussed.

Do You Have a Grammar Question You Would Like Answered?

If you want to impress your colleagues with your knowledge of grammar and mastery of American English, we can help. Simply browse our archives including a wide range of grammar discussions and subjects. We are your resource for becoming an even more precise and eloquent communicator.

If you have a writing or grammar question, leave us a comment below. We might also address it in a future article!

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the “Comment” box at the bottom of this page.



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