Content for Geeks: Setup/Backup/Cleanup/Login

One of the most common errors that I come across when reviewing documentation for developers is a conflation between the following words/phrases:

  • setup/set up
  • backup/back up
  • login/log in
  • cleanup/clean up

It’s pretty simple to remember the difference and it looks far more professional if you’re able to get it right.


The following are nouns or adjectives:

  • setup
  • backup
  • login
  • cleanup

A noun is a word used for a person, place, thing, object etc. So the following sentences would be correct:

  • Have you configured the setup?
  • The backups were stored on the server.

An adjective is a word for describing something else:

  • The setup process was ready to go.
  • Go to the login screen.
  • He needed their cleanup services.


  • set up
  • back up
  • log in
  • clean up

Verbs convey an action. To any of the above list you could append “to” – “to set up”, “to back up”.

Here’s how you would use the phrases:

  • To set up your website, go to the admin screen.
  • You should back up your website every day.
  • Please log in to get access to support.
  • He decided it was time to clean up his desktop.

If you want to go crazy you can use them both in the same sentence:

  • Proceed to the setup screen to set up your website.
  • When you back up your website, you should store your backups safely.
  • Go to the login screen to log in.
  • You might need some cleanup services to clean up that hacked site.

Hopefully now I’ll never see another misuse of “setup” again. *cough*

4 Responses to “Content for Geeks: Setup/Backup/Cleanup/Login”

  1. Mason James says:

    I actually learned something from this :P

    Now to apply it…

    Thanks Siobhan!

  2. Paul Kaiser says:

    Oh man, that’s a pet peeve of mine you just addressed. Thanks! You should go on tour with Grammar Girl.

  3. Neil Pie says:

    Perfectly explained. Now I can argue this point in an informed manner.


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