WAIS Document Retrieval[Style Manual]
[From the U.S. Government Printing Office via GPO Access]
6. COMPOUNDING RULES
(See also ``Compounding Examples'')
6.1. A compound word is a union of two or more words, either
with or without a hyphen. It conveys a unit idea that is not as
clearly or quickly conveyed by the component words in
unconnected succession. The hyphen is a mark of punctuation
that not only unites but separates the component words, and
thus facilitates understanding, aids readability, and ensures
correct pronunciation. When compound words must be divided at
the end of a line, such division should be made leaving
prefixes and combining forms of more than one syllable intact.
6.2. In applying the rules in this chapter and in using the
list of examples in the following chapter, ``Compounding
Examples,'' the fluid nature of our language should be kept in
mind. Word forms constantly undergo modification. Two-word
forms, which often acquired the hyphen first, frequently bypass
the hyphen stage and instantly assume a one-word form.
6.3. The rules, therefore, are somewhat flexible. Exceptions
must necessarily be allowed. Current language trends continue
to point to closing up certain words which, through either
frequent use or widespread dissemination through modern media
exposure, have become fixed in the reader's mind as units of
thought. The tendency to merge two short words continues to be
a natural progression toward better communication.
6.4. In general, omit the hyphen when words appear in regular
order and the omission causes no ambiguity in sense or sound.
6.5. Words are usually combined to express a literal or
nonliteral (figurative) unit idea that would not be as clearly
expressed in unconnected succession.
6.6. A derivative of a compound retains the solid or
hyphenated form of the original compound unless otherwise
6.7. A hyphen is used to avoid doubling a vowel or tripling a
consonant, except after the short prefixes co, de, pre, pro,
and re, which are generally printed solid. (See also rules 6.29
6.8. Print solid two nouns that form a third when the
compound has only one primary accent, especially when the
prefixed noun consists of only one syllable or when one of the
elements loses its original accent.
6.9. Print solid a noun consisting of a short verb and an
adverb as its second element, except when the use of the solid
form would interfere with comprehension.
6.10. Compounds beginning with the following nouns are
usually printed solid.
6.11. Compounds ending in the following are usually printed
solid, especially when the prefixed word consists of one
time (not clock)
6.12. Print solid any, every, no, and some when combined with
body, thing, and where. When one is the second element, print
two words if meaning a single or particular person or thing. To
avoid mispronunciation, print no one as two words at all times.
but any one of us may stay; every one of the pilots is
responsible; every body was accounted for
6.13. Print compound personal pronouns as one word.
6.14. Print as one word compass directions consisting of two
points, but use a hyphen after the first point when three
points are combined.
also north-south alignment
6.15. Print a hyphen between words, or abbreviations and
words, combined to form a unit modifier immediately preceding
the word modified, except as indicated in rule 6.16 and
elsewhere throughout this chapter. This applies particularly to
combinations in which one element is a present or past
U.S.-owned property; U.S.-flag ship
1-inch diameter; 2-inch-diameter pipe
a 4-percent increase, the 10-percent rise
4 percent citric acid
4 percent interest. (Note the absence of an article: a, an, or the. The
word of is understood here.)
6.16. Where meaning is clear and readability is not aided, it
is not necessary to use a hyphen to form a temporary or made
compound. Restraint should be exercised in forming unnecessary
combinations of words used in normal sequence.
atomic energy power
bituminous coal industry
child welfare plan
civil rights case
civil service examination
durable goods industry
flood control study
free enterprise system
ground water levels
high school student
elementary school grade
income tax form
interstate commerce law
land bank loan
land use program
life insurance company
mutual security funds
national defense appropriation
natural gas company
per capita expenditure
Portland cement plant
production credit loan
public at large
public utility plant
real estate tax
Social Security pension
soil conservation measures
special delivery mail
parcel post delivery
speech correction class
but no-hyphen rule (readability aided); not no hyphen rule
6.17. Print without a hyphen a compound predicate adjective
or predicate noun the second element of which is a present
The duties were price fixing.
The effects were far reaching.
The shale was oil bearing.
The area is used for beet raising.
6.18. Print without a hyphen a compound predicate adjective
the second element of which is a past participle. Omit the
hyphen in a predicate modifier of comparative or superlative
The area is drought stricken.
The paper is fine grained.
Moderately fine grained wood.
The boy is freckle faced.
This material is fire tested.
The cars are higher priced.
The reporters are better informed.
6.19. Print without a hyphen a two-word modifier the first
element of which is a comparative or superlative.
better drained soil
best liked books
higher level decision
highest priced apartment
larger sized dress
better paying job
lower income group
lowercase, uppercase type
6.20. Do not use a hyphen in a two-word unit modifier the
first element of which is an adverb ending in ly, nor use
hyphens in a three-word unit modifier the first two elements of
which are adverbs.
eagerly awaited moment
wholly owned subsidiary
unusually well preserved specimen
very well defined usage
longer than usual lunch period
not too distant future
most often heard phrase
6.21. Proper nouns used as unit modifiers, either in their
basic or derived form, retain their original form; but the
hyphen is printed when combining forms.
Latin American countries
North Carolina roads
South American trade
Minneapolis-St. Paul region
North American-South American sphere
or Washington/Wilkes-Barre route
6.22. Do not confuse a modifier with the word it modifies.
field canning factory
service men and women
light blue hat (weight)
light-blue hat (color)
American flagship (military)
elementary school teacher
preschool children (kindergarten)
pre-school children (before school)
working men and women
steam powerplant site
meat packinghouse owner
6.23. Where two or more hyphenated compounds have a common
basic element and this element is omitted in all but the last
term, the hyphens are retained.
2- to 3- and 4- to 5-ton trucks
2- by 4-inch boards, but boards 2 to 6 inches wide
8-, 10-, and 16-foot boards
6.4-, 3.1-, and 2-percent pay raises
moss- and ivy-covered walls, not moss and ivy-covered
long- and short-term money rates, not long and short-term
but twofold or threefold, not two or threefold
goat, sheep, and calf skins, not goat, sheep, and
intrastate and intracity, not intra-state and -city
American owned and managed companies
preoperative and postoperative examination
6.24. Do not use a hyphen in a unit modifier consisting of a
ante bellum days
bona fide transaction
ex officio member
per capita tax
per diem employee
prima facie evidence
6.25. Do not print a hyphen in a unit modifier containing a
letter or a numeral as its second element.
abstract B pages
article 3 provisions
class II railroad
grade A milk
point 4 program
ward D beds
6.26. Do not use a hyphen in a unit modifier enclosed in
quotation marks unless it is normally a hyphenated term, but
quotation marks are not to be used in lieu of a hyphen.
``blue sky'' law
``good neighbor'' policy
6.27. Print combination color terms as separate words, but
use a hyphen when such color terms are unit modifiers.
6.28. Do not use a hyphen between independent adjectives
preceding a noun.
big gray cat
a fine old southern gentleman
Prefixes, suffixes, and combining forms
6.29. Print solid combining forms and prefixes, except as
6.30. Print solid combining forms and suffixes, except as
6.31. Print solid words ending in like, but use a hyphen to
avoid tripling a consonant or when the first element is a
6.32. Use a hyphen or hyphens to prevent mispronunciation, to
ensure a definite accent on each element of the compound, or to
multi-ply (several plies)
re-cover (cover again)
re-creation (create again)
re-lay (lay again)
re-sorting (sort again)
re-treat (treat again)
6.33. Use a hyphen to join duplicated prefixes.
6.34. Print with a hyphen the prefixes ex, self, and quasi.
6.35. Unless usage demands otherwise, use a hyphen to join a
prefix or combining form to a capitalized word. (The hyphen is
retained in words of this class set in caps.)
post-World War II
or post-Second World War
6.36. Print a hyphen between the elements of compound numbers
from twenty-one to ninety-nine and in adjective compounds with
a numerical first element.
thirty- (30-) day period
one hundred and twenty-one
$20 million airfield
second grade children
6.37. Print without a hyphen a modifier consisting of a
possessive noun preceded by a numeral. (See also rule 8.14.)
1 month's layoff
1 week's pay
2 hours' work
3 weeks' vacation
1 minute's delay
but a 1-minute delay
6.38. Print a hyphen between the elements of a fraction, but
omit it between the numerator and the denominator when the
hyphen appears in either or in both.
three-fourths of an inch
6.39. A unit modifier following and reading back to the word
or words modified takes a hyphen and is printed in the
motor, alternating-current, 3-phase, 60-cycle, 115-volt
glass jars: 5-gallon, 2-gallon, 1-quart
belts: 2-inch, 1\1/4\-inch, \1/2\-inch, \1/4\-inch
Civil and military titles
6.40. Do not hyphenate a civil or military title denoting a
single office, but print a double title with a hyphen.
ambassador at large
assistant attorney general
commander in chief
Congressman at Large
sergeant at arms
6.41. The adjectives elect and designate, as the last element
of a title, require a hyphen.
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development-designate
Scientific and technical terms
6.42. Do not print a hyphen in scientific terms (names of
chemicals, diseases, animals, insects, plants) used as unit
modifiers if no hyphen appears in their original form.
carbon monoxide poisoning
guinea pig raising
hog cholera serum
methyl bromide solution
stem rust control
equivalent uranium content
whooping cough remedy
6.43. Chemical elements used in combination with figures use
a hyphen, except with superior figures.
6.44. Note use of hyphens and closeup punctuation in chemical
6.45. Print a hyphen between the elements of technical or
contrived compound units of measurement.
6.46. Print with a hyphen the elements of an improvised
18-year-old (n., u.m.)
make-believe (n., u.m.)
George ``Pay-As-You-Go'' Miller
penny-wise and pound-foolish policy
but a basis of first come, first
6.47. Use hyphens in a prepositional-phrase compound noun
consisting of three or more words.
coat of arms
heir at law
next of kin
officer in charge
6.48. When the corresponding noun form is printed as separate
words, the verb form is always hyphenated.
6.49. Print a hyphen in a compound formed of repetitive or
conflicting terms and in a compound naming the same thing under
6.50. Use a hyphen in a nonliteral compound expression
containing an apostrophe in its first element.
6.51. Use a hyphen to join a single capital letter to a noun
or a participle.
6.52. Print idiomatic phrases without hyphens.