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To “Close” or To “Shut,” That is the Question

I belong to several groups. Recently, a person posted the following:

“I don’t know if this is regional thing or perhaps it is just me, but I hear television announcers telling us that a certain company has ‘shut, with the loss of x number of jobs.’ I always thought that you ‘shut a door or a window’ and a ‘company would close down.’ “

Plenty of people offered comments (60 as of this writing). But proper word choice interests me, so here is what I found:

Close has four entries in my dictionary. The listing that matters here is the first entry, of which there are 18 definitions. Several deal with conclusion or bringing to an end; one says “often used with down.”

Shut has two entries, the first of which has eight definitions. Three of these use close as part of the definition. Two others deal with conclusion, cessation or suspension. Both of these have the note, “often used with down.”

I, too, don’t know if it’s a regional thing of perhaps just him, but either word works in his example. A company can close, with the loss of x numbered jobs, as well as shut (often used with down.) You also can close or shut a door or window.

The LinkedIn discussion went off on several tangents, first the different between British and American English regarding “different to” (British) and “different from/than” (American) and then the difference between “gone missing:” and “went missing.”

But somewhere among the various diatribes bemoaning the end of civilization as we know it came from Alison Mahnken: ” ‘Close’ and ‘shut’ (often with ‘down’) are equally acceptable, per esteemed M.-Webster (and definitive resource in American writing/journalism).”

And that’s the open and close of it. Or is it open and shut?

Until next time! Use the right words!



July 9, 2013 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , ,


  1. I’m wondering if the etymology of “shut” isn’t related to “shutter” as in “shuttered its doors,” which would be a common way of expressing that a company closed down. There may be a regional difference on this within the US. Here in the South, it is common to say a place “shut” or “shut down.”


    Comment by Cheri Thomas | July 9, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Cheri. My dictionary says “shut” comes from the Middle English word shutten which comes from the Old English word scyitan akin to Old English sceotan meaning “shoot.” Meanwhile “shutter” is from 1542 and means “one who shuts.”



      Comment by usingtherightwords | July 9, 2013 | Reply

  2. Also, thanks for following. I really appreciate it.


    Comment by usingtherightwords | July 9, 2013 | Reply

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