Layout or Lay out – What’s the Difference?

Graphic designers lay out layouts in clever ways to make information visually appealing and easy to read. Or do they layout lay outs?

The choice between compounds and their individual words has plagued writers for centuries. Even most word processors will not catch some of these mistakes, so you will need to be careful to always use each correctly.

In truth, both layout and lay out are useful and correct constructions of this term. The only difference between them is in their respective parts of speech.

What is the Difference Between Layout and Lay out?

In this post, I will compare lay out vs. layout. I will use each of these words in several example sentences, so you can see how they appear in context.

Plus, I will show you a helpful memory tool that will make choosing lay out or layout much easier.

When to Use Layout

What does layout mean? Layout is a noun. A layout is the way things are organized, especially visually or spatially. The front page of a newspaper, for instance, has a carefully designed layout. So does the floor plan of a luxury hotel.

Here are a few more examples,

  • “Mick wants the layout by 5 p.m. tonight so we can go to print,” said Alton.
  • Edgar studied the layout of the gargantuan office building on a map posted near the elevators.
  • Apple Inc. has a secured a court ruling allowing the company to register the layout of its retail stores in the European Union as a trade mark, an extension of its intellectual property that it had already acquired in the U.S. –The Wall Street Journal

The word layout has been in use since the mid-19th century. It is a compound of the words lay and out, more on which below.

When to Use Lay Out

What does lay out mean? Lay out is a verb phrase. It usually means to arrange something.

Lay is a transitive verb. Transitive verbs take a direct object, or a noun that the action is performed on in a sentence.

Lay is always transitive, which means it cannot be used without a direct object. In the phrase lay out, out is an adverb that indicates how or where something is laid.

Here are a few examples,

  • The murderer likes to lay out his victims’ entrails in a pattern that gives a clue about his next attack.
  • Costume designers often lay out the fabric they will use for a project in advance, to make sure they have enough and that it is visually appealing.
  • Boehner, who capped his career with Thursday’s address by Pope Francis, met with a handful of the most conservative Republicans after the papal address to lay out his plan to fund the government. –The Washington Post

Lay out has been in use since the 16th century.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Now, let’s go over a trick to remember layout vs. lay out.

Lay out is a verb phrase, while layout is a noun, so which one you choose depends on the context of the sentence.

  • If you need a verb, use lay out.
  • If you need a noun, choose the compound layout

Since the word lay by itself is a verb, it should be easy to remember that the phrase lay out functions that way in a sentence, as well.

Summary

Is it layout or lay out? Both of these words have valid uses in proper English; you must choose according to how you use the term in sentences.

  • Layout is a noun that means the way something is arranged.
  • Lay out is a verb phrase that refers to the act of arranging something.
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