Editor’s Letter – April 2024 – Moto Scrabble and Compound Words

One of the lesser-known challenges of editing a motorcycle magazine is creating a stylebook. Generally, this is where we keep track of how motorcycling-specific words are spelled. However, the Ultimate Motorcycling stylebook can also be our custom dictionary for defining a word when the standard dictionary won’t help. In the internet age, it’s not as critical for the reader that we’re 100 percent consistent throughout the website. In fact, it’s not practical for that to happen, as we change the spellings or definitions as technology evolves. Still, consistency is a noble goal.


Perhaps the most vexing determination is separating out two-word nouns from one word. Right up front, I’ll say that I’m a fan of compound words, even though I don’t have any significant German heritage per AncestryDNA.

Some of the calls are easy. We all agree that “kickstand” is one word, not two. However, it’s inconclusive whether or not “center stand” is correct or “centerstand.” High-quality sources use both. In our case, if “kickstand” is one word, then so is “centerstand”.


Moving to full-face helmets, we are tasked with choosing between “chin bar” and “chinbar.” Both are in wide use, so there’s no clear answer. However, exercise aficionados use a “chin bar” for doing chin-ups, making me tend toward “chinbar” for some differentiation. However, the world seems heavily biased on “chin strap” as two words, so it makes sense that “chin bar” would be two words. This is where I get to have Editor’s Privilege. We’ll go with “chinbar” and “chinstrap” as motorcycling-specific compound nouns.

Another controversy surrounds “powder coating” vs. “powdercoating.” Using Google as a guide, the compound word gets 4.6 million hits. The two-word version gets 17 million hits. Well, “powder coating” just doesn’t seem right to me. So, even though there’s a 4:1 ratio in favor of two words, you’ll see “powdercoating” and its variants as a compound word.

Senior Editor Nic de Sena and I have had knock-down-drag-out arguments over “quickshifter”. No, we aren’t arguing whether it’s one word or two. We agree it is a compound word.

Initially, a quickshifter was up-only. Then, “auto-blipper” came along for clutchless downshifts. I don’t know about you, but the term “auto-blipper” (hyphenated) just grates on me. Not only does it sound silly, but the term isn’t descriptive unless you’re already familiar with what throttle blipping is.

Editor's Letter - April 2024

“Quickshifter” is easy—it allows a clutchless shift. There’s nothing about the term that indicates it is up-only. Initially, we all got that it was up-only because there was no downshift alternative. “Auto-blipper” arrives on the scene, seemingly just to annoy me, even though I like what it does.

However, time has passed. As most clutchless shifter systems work in both directions, I contend that “quickshifter” has come of age, and it’s a blanket term that covers up and down clutchless shifting. Sure, there are a few up-only holdouts, but they are disappearing fast in the age of ride-by-wire throttles that easily accommodate quickshifters featuring up and down functionality.

Being the keeper of the style book, I want “quickshifter” to be the generic term for clutchless shifting capability. If it’s the increasingly rare up-only system, we can clarify that it is an “up-only quickshifter”.

For whatever reason, Nic can’t let go of “quickshifter” being up-only. I’ve pretty much banished the dreaded “auto-blipper” from the Ultimate Motorcycling canon, but Nic insists that he describe a bi-directional quickshifter as an “up/down quickshifter.” So, that’s our compromise. Eventually, though, I think he’ll tire of typing “up/down” when they’re finally all that way. Senior Editor’s Note: The people gotta know which directions things go.

Editor's Letter - April 2024
Faceshield. Sunshield. No visors!

As a last example, if you’re still reading this paean to pedantry, we return to helmets or the curious case of “visor”. It has multiple meanings, and they’re all correct. However, we pride ourselves on being perspicuous, so an ambiguous word like “visor” gets banned from the Ultimate Motorcycling lexicon.

What we call a “faceshield”, some people call a “visor”. What we call an interior “sunshield”, some people call a “visor”. What we call the “peak” of a dirt bike or ADV helmet—that part that protrudes to shade your eyes from the sun—some people call a “visor”. I think you see why “visor” is no longer welcome, and we go with “faceshield”, “sunshield”, and “peak”.

I often get told that I have the Greatest Job in the World, and I do. However, when people say that, I bet that compound words, quickshifters, and visors never cross their minds.