by Writer"s Relief staff | Mar 16, 2008 | Grammar and also Usage, Proofreading, submit Your creating | 7 comments

Knowing how to recognize and spell compound words have the right to sometimes it is in tricky. Hyphen or no hyphen? One native or two? here are some tips to aid you correctly kind compound nouns and adjectives:

Definition: A compound word is developed when 2 or much more words sign up with to type a new word that has actually its very own meaning. Although compound words are frequently written as solitary words (such as teapot), sometimes they are not. It is why the is important to recognize that there are three varieties of link words: closed compounds, hyphenated compounds, and also open compounds. Let’s take it a look at at each of them:

Closed compound definition: compounds composed as solitary words (newspaper, goldfish, highway)

Hyphenated compounds definition: link that are hyphenated (mother-in-law, second-rate, court-martial)

Open link definition: compounds written as separate words (end zone, high school, health and wellness care)

Sometimes learning when to create compounds as solitary words, hyphen words, or separate words is difficult. That’s due to the fact that some link words adjust their kind based ~ above their role in a specific sentence.

You are watching: Is highschool one word or 2

For example, when provided as a noun, backup is written as one word: The police officer called for backup. However, when the very same compound native is provided as a verb, that is created as 2 words (back up): Did you back up your computer files? When supplied as an adjective, backup is one word: What is her backup plan for tomorrow evening?

Thus, the first tip because that understanding just how to create a link word is learning the word’s function in the sentence. Let’s take it a look in ~ a few more instances of this:

1. handout: As Jill to be walking under the street, a man provided her a handout proclaiming a free concert in the park. (Here, handout is a noun.)

2. hand out: John handed out the flyers. (Here, handed out is a verb.)

3. upside down: The cake landing upside down. (Here, upside down is an adverb telling how the cake landed.)

4. upside-down: The upside-down poster announced a complimentary concert in the park. (Here, upside-down is one adjective explicate poster.)

When in doubt about the order of a compound word, you should first consult a dictionary, such together Merriam-Webster, which will certainly list the proper spellings based upon the word’s duty in the sentence.

You will find, too, that many compound words are always spelled one way, nevertheless of their function. Because that example, according to Merriam-Webster, high school is created as 2 words nevertheless of even if it is it is offered as a noun—Peggy has just began high school—or one adjective—Peggy is a high school student.

The confusion occurs once the link word is not discovered in the dictionary. (Also see generally Confused indigenous and an ext Misused (and Mistreated) Words.) Then, writers must rely ~ above their judgment to ensure the their intended meaning is preserved.


Here space some tips to aid you resolve compound native that space not in the dictionary:

1. Hyphenate the compound word if its an interpretation will be ambiguous there is no the hyphen.

Example: Dr. Lawrence, a small-town practitioner, to be the first official to come on the scene. (Here, the hyphen is necessary; there is no it, readers may think that the practitioner to be a small man, fairly than a practitioner who works in a tiny town.)

2. Never hyphenate link words the are developed with -ly adverbs.

Example: Tammy and also Bob purchase the recently renovated house on key Street.

3. Hyphenate the elements of a link adjective the occurs before a noun.

Example: They attend a black-tie affair.

Note: The complying with kinds of compound adjectives practically always have to be hyphenated:

Noun + adjective (tax-exempt), Noun + jet (government-owned), Adjective + participle (friendly-looking), Adjective + noun + ed (high-priced)

The Bottom Line: compound Word rule Made EasyRemember these points as soon as working v compound words, and also you should have actually no trouble v their spelling:

1. There are three types of link words: closeup of the door compounds, hyphen compounds, and open compounds.

2. If you room in doubt around the order of a link word, you should check a dictionary before you apply any other guidelines.

3. Hyphenate if faint will an outcome without the hyphen.

4. Never hyphenate -ly adverbs.

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