Spelling...Sometimes It Hurts
August 11, 2011 2:41 PM   Subscribe

Is the correct spelling in sync or in synch?

I can't listen to this disagreement any longer. Is there a definitive source that indicates that either spelling is correct?
posted by 26.2 to Writing & Language (24 answers total)
In sync. I have never seen the second variant, fwiw.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:43 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

I have also never seen "synch" written anywhere formally, though it seems to be accepted by spell check. Online dictionaries redirect "synch" to "sync".

I'd go with sync.
And I'm prepared to fight anyone who says otherwise!
posted by phunniemee at 2:46 PM on August 11, 2011

The Free Dictionary says "In Sync."

Google gives about 11,900,000 results when you search for "in sync."
Google says "Did you mean 'in sync'" when you search for "in synch."

I think this is pretty cut and dried: "in sync" is the way to go.
posted by kdar at 2:47 PM on August 11, 2011

Oxford approves of both but prefers sync.
posted by peachfuzz at 2:47 PM on August 11, 2011

synch looks weird, go with sync
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:48 PM on August 11, 2011

Sync is much more common, but synch is an acceptable variant. (The very first OED citation is actually in sink, which is appalling, but there you go.)
posted by theodolite at 2:48 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Actually it's 'N Sync.

Okay, okay. Since it's a colloquial abbreviation rather than a proper word, I don't think there are any solid rules for which version is "right" or "wrong." What I like to do in cases where there is disagreement over which version of something is correct, or there is a right answer but so many people use the other one that it's "rightness" doesn't really help much, is something I call the Google delphi poll.

Google has 13,200,000 hits for "synch." And it has 291,000,000 for "sync."

So when in doubt, I'd go with "sync."

Unless I wanted to be contrarian.
posted by Naberius at 2:49 PM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Also calling on the OED, it is notable that the second definition for sync, nots the particular use of sync (their spelling, see below) but that the early uses of it they cite in literature use synch, perhaps suggesting that there has been a change in the more common usage over the last 50 years, though we would need to see more examples to confirm this.

b. gen. Esp. in phrs. in sync, out of sync. Also fig.

1961 J. Steinbeck Winter of our Discontent ii. xiv. 278 Something's going on.‥ I just feel it.‥ Everybody's a little out of synch.

1964 ‘R. Macdonald’ Far Side of Dollar (1965) xxvi. 225 We could step up our schedule and synch our watches, eh?

1966 E. West Night is Time for Listening vi. 200 No cops, no State Department. Are we in sync?

1968 T. Wolfe Electric Kool-aid Acid Test xi. 147 Somehow this ties in, synchs, directly with what Kesey has just said.

1974 Times Lit. Suppl. 8 Nov. 1247/4 Worldly success depends on being, as it were, in sync with the contemporary scene, and it was at this point that Fleming began to get out of sync, never to get properly in again.

1977 Time 17 Oct. 42/3 The next thing will be to bring the players' uniforms into sync with the floor design.

1978 J. Irving World according to Garp xvii. 352 His watch‥was several hours out of sync with the United States; he had last set it in Vienna.

1978 Eng. Jrnl. Dec. 50/1 Or is the teaching ‘out of synch’ with the cognitive development‥and the intentions of the learner?

1982 M. Millar Mermaid x. 110 She‥sensed his uneasiness, his awareness that he was out of sync, out of tune.
posted by biffa at 3:26 PM on August 11, 2011

"In sync" vs. "in synch" on Google NGrams viewer. "In sync" has always been more popular and became much more so starting around 1980.
posted by kdar at 3:37 PM on August 11, 2011 [2 favorites]

AP Stylebook says "in sync."
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 3:43 PM on August 11, 2011

"Synch" is probably because the full word is "synchronization". However, in industries that use the term (audio engineering is the first and one that I know well), we use "sync".
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:58 PM on August 11, 2011

FWIW, I've seen 'synch' much more commonly in technical documentation (e.g. mostly European telco-level data transmission documents)
posted by Pinback at 4:06 PM on August 11, 2011

In music publishing in the US, we seem to use "synch" and not "sync" when referring to synchronization licenses.
posted by queensissy at 4:13 PM on August 11, 2011

The ngram idea is good, but let's leave out the more modern times, where sync is dominating.

Here's 1800 to 1939 and here's 1935 to 1945.

It seems WWII had a major impact on this word.
posted by clord at 4:24 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by limeonaire at 7:19 PM on August 11, 2011

Sync is generally used - synch is an informal usage.
posted by mleigh at 8:01 PM on August 11, 2011

Synthesizers and drum machines made in the brief period of the early eighties between Control Voltage and MIDI used a technology called DIN-sync for synchronization, and the jacks are labeled as such. Among such instruments are the legendary Roland 303, 808, and 909, which are so ubiquitous that, frankly, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they are the sole reason for that spelling gaining dominance. (Of course I doubt that is actually the case. Still, data point!)

Personally, my gut tells me "synch" should rhyme with "lynch." My gut is wrong, obviously. Fact is, though, there is no such ambiguity if there's no h.

I vote sync, too.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:22 PM on August 11, 2011

"Sync" is more common, but I use "synch" just because I like being pointlessly contrarian and I feel sort of sad about the streamlining and homogenization of English. It's probably a needlessly regressive position to take, but there it is.
posted by Scientist at 8:39 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

I guess I'm old. Either one is OK, and they are interchangeable.

I am dismayed that some seem to be relying on Google's results counts and alternate-spelling suggestions as some kind of authority.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:51 AM on August 12, 2011

I"ve seen "lip synch," but "in sync." So maybe it depends on the usage.
posted by cass at 9:23 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

kdar writes "Google says 'Did you mean "in sync"' when you search for 'in synch.'"

This just means one is more popular than the other. Google often does this with variants that are both proper English and, though it doesn't apply here, uncommon proper names.
posted by Mitheral at 9:45 AM on August 12, 2011

There really can't be a definitive spelling here, because it's a corruption of a word that is already a Greek-English hybrid (synchronous + the English import from Greek ize). Technically, synchronous comes from σύγχρονος where the "ch" is a single letter, so logical prescriptivist rules would suggest keeping the "ch" together as a marker of that single letter χ. As languagehat this last day pointed out, however, English is not a sub-branch of logic. It's pretty clear that "sync" has become the preferred spelling of the abbreviated word.

Kirth: while Google has its faults as a dataset, it's the sort of dataset that linguists would once have killed for. I think it's perfectly appropriate to use it in this way, if you care about what the popular result is.
posted by dhartung at 3:31 PM on August 13, 2011

The Merriam-Webster dictionary, which many publishers use as their authority for such things, recommends sync (but also curiously recommends "lip-synch").
posted by Camofrog at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2011

Sorry to delay on thanking you all. There are arguments for both, but the more accepted modern usage seems to be sync. (Mostly, I'm asking the team to simply rewrite sentences to avoid the term. That way we can avoid wasting time rehashing this spelling debate.)

Thanks word lovers!
posted by 26.2 at 11:41 AM on August 21, 2011

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