He Said: Are You On Line or In Line?


By Anthony Santino

Co-Perspectives Editor

So…when a line is formed, and you’re a part of it, is it proper to say you’re “in line” or “on line?”

This is a debate that apparently gets people going. It came up in the office during our Sunday meeting, and I had no idea that it would spark such passionate opinions for both sides of the arguments. But it did, and here we are to address the issue.

To get my personal opinion on it out of the way, I’ll say this: I feel that either expression is fine to use, but I say “on line” much more than I do “in line.”

The argument people often seem to use against “on line” is that it should be reserved for when you’re on the Internet (i.e. “I’m online shopping for James’ birthday gifts”). However, I feel that you can use the expression “on line” for both being on the Internet and when being part of a queue of people. It just sounds fine.

Since I’m here to rationalize my argument, I’ll add that I also think of it this way: I think the expression “in line” is too restricting. I’m serious.

When one says, “I’m in line,” I feel as if they’re part of something they’re boxed into, like they can’t get out.

When you’re in something, it implies you have to somehow exit, or that you’re confined to it. When you’re on something, it sounds more like you’re in control of your present situation. Crazy as that sounds, you’ve got to admit—it’s not that nuts.

To further this debate’s tediousness, I’m going to pull another card. What came first: lines, or the Internet? I’d say lines.

It’s pretty much a fact that people have been forming lines (or “queues,” if you want to sound British) for thousands of years. Jesus probably waited on tons of lines in His lifetime. He was probably polite and waited His turn like the next man.

And not only did Jesus probably wait on lines, but perhaps everyone who’s ever lived has waited on at least one line. Even royalty. Do you think the Queen of England is going to let Prince Harry skip her on the ice cream line?

(Quick update: I’m being super careful not to casually drop the phrase “in line” in one of my sentences. I’m giving the matter hawk-like attentiveness).

So yes, lines have been a thing way longer than the Internet. That is established, and I hope you “in-liners” can see that “on line” is a term that’s likely been used well before the World Wide Web was even a thought.

Speaking of you in-liners, why does it matter that much anyway?

I mean, I like to say “on line,” but I don’t denounce the use of “in line.” It just seems like you have something against a phrase that makes perfect sense. Oh well.

Keep thinking of your lines as a box in which you must stay. I’ll be moving on or off of mine whenever I please.

By the way, congratulations to Giovanna’s Philadelphia Eagles for winning the Super Bowl this past Sunday.

I bet fans are waiting on long lines to get their championship gear.


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