Preservation Grammar: “In” v. “On” the National Register

When referring to a historically significant property, do you say that it is listed “on the National Register of Historic Places” or “in the National Register of Historic Places?”

Think about for a minute. Write it down. Which is your preference? Which sounds correct?  Is there a correct answer?  Considering how interchangeable “in” and “on” seem to be in relation to the National Register, it may seem like either one is correct. While both tend to be accepted, there is a right answer.

In the National Register” is the proper phrase.

The National Park Service National Register Bulletin says this, “Properties listed in the National Register include districts, sites, buildings, structures, and objects that are significant in American history, architecture, archeology, engineering, and culture.”

And consider this. The Register is a list. Properties are in that list, among other properties – a part of something (the register). They are not on the list. Think of it like a group of properties or in a crowd of properties – in that group, not on that group. Make sense? Would anyone care to parse this discussion further?

What’s your success rate with “in” or “on” and where did you learn the difference?


Previous Preservation Grammar posts: 


16 thoughts on “Preservation Grammar: “In” v. “On” the National Register

  1. nick (@duckumu) says:

    This may be a regional difference. Native New Yorkers might use “on” vs. “in”, e.g., when they say “standing on line” instead of “standing in line”. “In” is more technically correct, but there are millions out there who would say “on” instead.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Nick, I agree — definitely regional differences. However, when referring to the National Register of Historic Places in speech and in documents, there is a correct choice.

  2. bricksandmortarpreservation says:

    When referring to the National Register I ALWAYS want to say/write on, and it was a very difficult habit to break. Perhaps it is regional, as Nick suggested? In Kentucky, we say “on the list” rather than “in the list” in everyday conversation.

    One of my grad school professors had to drill it into my head, but even still I remember having to search my graduate thesis (which was about the NR as an archive) to be sure that I’d used “in” consistently before turning in my final draft!

  3. Theodore says:

    You are “on” my list…not “in” my list. We need milk…I will put that “on” the shopping list, not “in” the shopping list.

    • Kaitlin says:

      Again, yes, in casual conversation most of us probably say on the list, not in the list. But this references a particular list – like a proper noun.

  4. Preservation and Place says:

    I use both actually, but it’s a matter of what else I’m saying with it at the time. With the word listed, I’ll say/write “It’s listed in the National Register.” Without the word listed, I’ll say/write “It’s on the National Register.”

  5. Henrietta Hobson Richardson says:

    It is our pet peeve at this SHPO when people say ON and not IN… it’s a list, you include things IN it, not ON it.

    When people try and point out that most people say it is “on the register” we point out that it is just as easy to say “it’s listed” and leave at that.

    Thanks for educating people!

  6. Devin says:

    “In” is correct. I think of the NR as an elite club – once something is listed, it’s “in” the club.

  7. Shannon says:

    I remember being at a conference and hearing Carol Shull, who was the Keeper at the time, answer the question. She stated that the correct term was “in.”

Have a thought to share?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s