Cease and desist

Cease and desist is a legal term signifying an enforceable order by a court or government agency demanding someone cease conducting a certain action, such as attempting to contact someone who does not wish to be contacted. A cease and desist letter is also known as an infringement letter or demand letter.

Cease and desist is not a phrase used in day-to-day conversation or non-legal circumstances, it is best to use the word stop in order to ask someone to quit indulging in an annoying action.

Cease and desist is occasionally hyphenated, the preferred use seems to be unhyphenated.


When Oregon Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian completed his preliminary ruling Thursday against Aaron and Melissa Klein, owners of the now-closed bakery Sweet Cakes by Melissa, for refusing to provide a wedding cake to a lesbian couple, he ordered the Kleins to “cease and desist” from speaking publicly about their motivation for refusal of service – their Christian beliefs. (The Christian Examiner)

The Aquinnah selectmen will send a formal cease and desist letter to the Wampanoag Tribe of Gay Head (Aquinnah) asking the tribe to halt all activity to convert the tribal community center to a gambling hall. (The Vineyard Gazette)

The cease and desist order that has been pending against the Oakdale Theatre since December, a result of complaints from neighbors about noise at the concert venue, was lifted Monday by the planning and zoning commission. (The Hartford Courant)

Facebook sent a cease and desist letter to Facegloria, warning the site that it is infringing on its trademark and creates the potential for consumer confusion, a Facebook spokesman told USA TODAY. (USA Today)

Selleck, who owns a 60-acre ranch in Westlake Village with his wife, Jillie—complete with horses, dogs, and an avocado ranch—allegedly refused to stop indulging in the hydrant flow despite having received cease-and-desist letters from the Calleguas Municipal Water District in November 2013. (TIME)

3 thoughts on “Cease and desist”

  1. Why did you use hyphens in day-to-day and non-legal? At least with day to day, I think with or without hyphens, it looks just fine. But in the case of non legal (which this spelling checking daemon doesn’t find anything wrong with in all its forms: non legal, non-legal and nonlegal), at least in conventional English, ‘non’ is not a word by itself, and is always a prefix to something else.

    So why the hyphen? We don’t write pre-historic or retro-active, do we. Non-sense! (oh, how could one pass that eggcorn up?)

    Understand: my pique is somewhat personal, insofar as I am fond of using hyphens to join concepts that seem to need tighter binding than a string of words might otherwise convey. And also understand, I also use the (day-to-day) construction, as you have. But non-legal? Seems like a malaprop somehow.

    Looking forward to an answer.


    • As used in the article, “day-to-day” is a compound adjective, and most dictionaries, and usage and style guides, suggest/enforce hyphenation.

      As for “non legal”, that is surely wrong by your own admission that “at least in conventional English, ‘non’ is not a word by itself”, no?

      My initial suspicion about the non-legal vs. nonlegal thing was that it is an evolving usage thing. I suspect that historically, non-legal was (probably much, much) more common, but it is falling out of favour due to an evolving preference for removing “unnecessary” hyphens (where our sensibilities about what is “necessary” are changing).

      On checking my desktop (printed) dictionaries though (neither especially current), I see it is also a British- vs. US-English thing. Oxford has many, many more non-[something] than non[something] entries, but Merriam-Webster has almost no non-[something] entries. In fact, M-W’s preferred usage appears to be that non-[something] is reserved for cases where the [something] is normally capitalized (non-American, non-Darwinian, non-European, non-Western) or a foreign word (non-euclidean being the only entry I found from a quick search, although it seems to me that that example should be capitalized anyway!).

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