Word Confusion: Down Stairs versus Downstairs

Posted March 14, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 17 February 2018

I know. It’s not an obvious distinction, and probably more glaring to editors, copyeditors, and proofreaders. The only other possibility for which I can see using down and stairs separately is if the author really wanted to make a point, as in “You will go. Down. Stairs. NOW.”

Besides, think how odd Upstairs, Downstairs would look…

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end.

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Down the Stairs Downstairs
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Your Dictionary.com

“Downstairs – La Merced” by Roger Price © 2009 from Hong Kong was uploaded by Fæ and is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

Looking down the stairs.

Looking down into an atrium on a lower floor

Inside Main Downstairs Atrium” by Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland from Deutschland is under the CC BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

The downstairs atrium.

Part of Grammar:
Adverb Phrase Adverb; Adjective; Noun
See “downstairs”

Use only with the between the words, i.e., down the stairs
Always use it with a singular verb

Down a flight of stairs

Down the stairs

Situated downstairs

Ground or lower floor of a building

Take a right, then go down the stairs.

Head on down the stairs.

Head on downstairs.

The bathroom is located downstairs.

The downstairs was hardly damaged at all.

History of the Word:
First noted in the mid-1500s

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

Cow Going Down Stairs at City Market, Bangalore, May 2008, by Kiran Jonnalagadda from Bangalore, India, and is under the CC-BY 2.0 license, via Wikimedia Commons.

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