In German specialised language, many terms derive from English.

I‘d consider the following German specialised terms as inadequate (or even wrong) and would prefer the suggestion in brackets over its widely used German term (if you really need to use the English term at all):

  • Stroke Unit (Stroke-Unit)
  • Follow Up (Follow-up)
  • Computer Service (Computer-Service or Computerservice)
  • Assessment Center (Assessment-Center)

The reason(s) why one might consider them as inadequate (if not wrong) can be found in the following resources:

I’ve heard someone argue that it would be OK to write specialised terms as seen above as we were dealing with specialised language.

My question is: Does a spelling mistake in a specialised term deriving from English remains a spelling mistake even though it is somewhat accepted in specialised language? Is it acceptable to deviate from standard spelling rules if we are dealing with specialised language? Are there any good, valuable, and valid sources which undermine this?

  • As far as I'm concerned... specialized or not, you have to abide by the rules. If you want to have stuff like that be two separate words, then use "" to mark it as "term". I don't have any resources though, hence just a comment.
    – Emanuel
    Jun 10, 2015 at 14:37
  • If you are using the original English spelling as the basis, then you often run into British vs. US (and Australian etc.) issues. Your examples seem to be based on British English; in the US, all of them would be written without a hyphen, just as in German. More often than not, such terms would have been imported from the US, thus the US spelling. Jun 10, 2015 at 16:15
  • 3
    @KevinKeane: Your examples seem to be based on British English; in the US, all of them would be written without a hyphen, just as in German – After all I know, the hyphenation rules do not differ between American and British English (they are just treated very sloppily in general), but anyway all examples (except follow up) are clearly without hyphen in English. As for German, those words clearly have to be written with a hyphen according to the official spelling rules.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 10, 2015 at 16:24
  • BTW, also according to the official spelling rules, Follow-up has to be written with a lowercase u (because up is not a noun).
    – chirlu
    Jun 10, 2015 at 18:24
  • Edited post and changed "Follow-Up" to "Follow-up" as many commentators have remarked. Jun 11, 2015 at 6:33

2 Answers 2


The official German spelling rules mention specialised languages (Fachsprache) at some points. Some of them make exceptions for specialised langugaes, namely regarding the capitalisation of fixed terms from specialised languages (Goldener Schnitt, Schwarze Witwe) and the punctuation of abbrevations (RflEttÜAÜG). But there is no general licence for specialised languages to ignore the spelling rules at will or to ignore the rules as to what words are written as one and thus allow the misspellings you criticised.

Even if one argues that spelling should be determined by the writers of a language, it should (at least in my opinion) still be consistent and allowing specialised languages to do what they want goes strongly against this.

  • 2
    However, der Goldene Schitt, das Rote Kreuz and das Blaue Band are entirely different from the above terms: Here, the first part is still a separate adjective and will be declensed. Follow-up, Stand-by and their relatives are not declensed. Note that this can also be used to distinguish between dem Hohen Peißenberg and Hohenpeißenberg, the first becoming der Hohe Peißenberg in nominative while the town remains as-is.
    – Jan
    Jun 10, 2015 at 20:50
  • I am listing those as examples for exceptions made for specialised languages by the spelling rules, not as a rule that would allow the spellings criticised by the asker.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jun 10, 2015 at 20:57

When you write a German text, then the rules of the German language are valid. Rules from other languages are irrelevant (except for verbatim quotations that are marked as such). This is true for all types of text, also for specialized language (i.e. technical documentation of a computer program).

Of course you can use special terms that come from other languages, but in German compound words are always written with a hyphen or concatenated. The usage of a blank as concatenation-sign (as it is usual in English) does not correspond with the rules of the German language.

So the conclusion is, that these terms are wrong when they appear in a German text:

Stroke Unit  
Follow Up  
Computer Service  
Assessment Center  

while these are correct:

Computer-Service, Computerservice


Except for students and some officers, nobody is forced to follow the rules of the German language. It is legal to use the English version (or any other language's version) even in a German text. You will not be punished, except if you are a student.

So you can do it, as long as everybody who is expected to read the text will understand what you wanted to say. Because every language's first and most important purpose is to transport information. And if all possible recipients will unquestionably clearly understand the text, then everything is fine.

So my recommendation is to follow the rules of the German language and use hyphens or concatenation. But if some term is so well known in its English writing that the germanized version would confuse the readers, then maybe it's better to use the English version.

  • 2
    Follow-Up is actually wrong: Follow-up is correct. Same for Count-down, Come-back, Stand-by (but Countdown, Comeback, Standby are also allowed and usually preferred).
    – chirlu
    Jun 10, 2015 at 18:27
  • Ich stimme in beiden Teilen mit Dir überein. Ich habe mir die Freiheit genommen, ein paar sprachliche Verbesserungen anzubringen. Da mein English auch weit davon entfernt ist, perfekt zu sein, kann ich dabei einzelne Teile fälscher gemacht haben.
    – Carsten S
    Jun 10, 2015 at 19:52
  • Btw, ich nehme an, dass der Fragesteller das aus dem ersten Teil alles weiß und nur bestätigt haben möchte. Der zweite Teil sagt dann eher, dass er trotzdem damit leben muss, wenn andere sich nicht daran halten.
    – Carsten S
    Jun 10, 2015 at 19:57
  • 2
    But if some term is so well known in its English writing that the germanized version would confuse the readers, then maybe it's better to use the English version. Why would it bother or confuse people to use a term like "Computer-Service" or "Computerservice" if this is the correct spelling in German? Personally, if I read "Computer Service", I immediately think of it as an English term not as a German term. Jun 11, 2015 at 7:52

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