compound adjectives

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hela

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Hello teachers,

Is there a rule that helps with the spelling of compound nouns and ajectives ?
When should the compound words be written separetely, hyphenated or attached ?

example:

a headmaster / head-master / head master
a bookcase / book-case
a homemade / home made cake
a pale looking / pale-looking woman
well educated women
fast growing population
a twelve storey building
a first class seat
fame seeking artists
a pain relieving tablet
crime fighting measures

Thank you for your help.
Hela
 

BobK

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Hello teachers,

Is there a rule that helps with the spelling of compound nouns and ajectives ?
When should the compound words be written separetely, hyphenated or attached ?
Yes and no. ;-)

example:

a headmaster / head-master / head master
a bookcase / book-case
a homemade / home made cake
a pale looking / pale-looking woman
well educated women
fast growing population
a twelve storey building
a first class seat
fame seeking artists
a pain relieving tablet
crime fighting measures

Thank you for your help.
Hela
Usage changes over time. Until MrsK put her foot down, I used to collect editions of the Concise Oxford Dictionary, and standards changed all the time. There are a couple of general points:

  • The longer a word has been in the language, the less likely there is to be a word-break. 'Blackbird'. for example is one word. Obviously this started life as two words. (In fact a female blackbird is not a black bird; it is brown.) But in order to apply this 'rule' you would have to use a dictionary anyway; which makes it useless for language students.
  • In attributive adjectives, a hyphen helps (but not everyone cares). For example, a high-level grill is not both high and level.

(Long time no see :hi:)

b
 

5jj

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Until MrsK put her foot down, I used to collect editions of the Concise Oxford Dictionary
Such unreasonable putting-down of the foot is grounds for divorce where I come from. The only time Mrs5 put her foot down was on a pile of my dictionaries she was using to reach a high shelf. She did not try that a second time.
 
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SoothingDave

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Hello teachers,

Is there a rule that helps with the spelling of compound nouns and ajectives ?
When should the compound words be written separetely, hyphenated or attached ?

example:

a headmaster / head-master / head master
a bookcase / book-case
a homemade / home made cake
a pale looking / pale-looking woman
well educated women
fast growing population
a twelve storey building
a first class seat
fame seeking artists
a pain relieving tablet
crime fighting measures

Thank you for your help.
Hela

There are many things to consider, as BobK already mentioned. I have seen Bugs Bunny cartoons from the 1940s that used "to-day" and "to-morrow." No one would use a hyphen in those words today.

There is also a consideration in using a hyphen about how common a phrase is. I would not use one for "crime fighting" or "pain relieving," since they are common expressions. (I also think they are too long to meld into just one word, but time will tell.)

But something like "fame-seeking artist" I would use a hyphen because you want emphasize that the two words should be thought of together, as a unit. Especially in a context where you could get confused and want to attach the first word to another phrase. Like "She moved to LA, but wanted to avoid fame seeking artists." Is she avoiding fame while she is seeking artists?
 

BobK

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That fame-seeking artist is a much more persuasive example than mine. ;-)

b
 

hombre viejo

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*NOT A TEACHER* While hard and fast rules are scarce regarding the use of hypens to spell compound words, three which seem to be enduring are: 1. Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving as a single adjective (unless you find an unhypenated form has evolved and is in current use) when you place it before a noun. 2. However, avoid the hyphen when the first word of the compound is an adverb ending in "ly" and when the the words follow the noun. 3. Use hypens with some compounds to avoid ambiguity - as: "His re-creation of the scene was close to perfect." "Fishing is my brother's favorite recreation," Except for those like #3, most "mistakes" will not be noticed unless your reader is a nit-picking authority on the current preferred spelling.
 
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