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Onboard vs. on board

Onboard is one word (sometimes hyphenatedon-board) when it comes before the noun it modifies (e.g., onboard radio, onboard computer). Elsewhere, writers usually make on board two words. For instance, one might write, “We brought a radio on board so we could have an onboard radio.”

If it helps, think of it this way: the two-word on board usually means the same as aboard, and aboard would usually work in its place. Aboard would not make sense as a replacement for onboard. Try it with the examples below.

Examples

Onboard


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Justin boasts an onboard 3-D camera system for analyzing points in space. [Wired News]

Although the airline grabs headlines for threatening to charge people to use onboard toilets or save money by dumping co-pilots, it normally turns to conventional ruses. [Guardian]

At one highway fill-up, the onboard computer showed I had a range of 880 km. [National Post]

On board

President John F. Kennedy called Shepard after he was taken on board the aircraft carrier that retrieved him from the ocean. [USA Today]

San Pietro was being sailed by the remaining crew on board. [Stuff.co.nz]

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Comments

  1. What about in case of: “We are going to onboard 20 new employees next week?” Which way would be correct then? Hyphenated?

  2. Billybob says:

    Good explanation. So is it:
    “The technician wanted to abort coming aboard the boat to fix the on(-)board radio because of the bored members on board?”

  3. Nonellie says:

    how about its use with a project: We need more people to get on board with this undertaking.

  4. So if “the” appeared before the name of a vessel, would it be “on board the HMAS XXX” or “onboard the HMAS XXX”?

  5. This was really useful, thanks. I prefer to use the word ‘aboard’ instead of two words. However, what about when talking about people on board? Could I then use ‘aboard’ or is it onboard?

  6. Jason Starek says:

    My advice for all: go to “Grammar Girl.”

  7. Linda Nitzschke says:

    Boy, I don’t know. This used to always be used in the one-word form years ago, I believe. I can maybe see it as two words when referring to someone coming onto a boat or ship, but that’s about it. However, a lot of the rules have changed over the years, most of which I don’t agree with.

  8. Elizabeth Taggart says:

    What about when used by Human Resources staff to refer to orienting new employees into the company: “Our onboarding process begins before the new hire’s first day and can last as long as a year.”

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