An issue came up a while back that has been a problem before: when to hyphenate?

My issue was with the word fund-raising, used as a noun (although that may not make a difference). I prefer the more modern “fundraising”–so do the New York Times and the Associated Press–but I need a better reason than “it sounds old fashioned” to justify the edit. Gregg’s manual suggest treating compound nouns as two words unless the dictionary says otherwise, and lists fund-raising as a hyphenated example. It looks like nonprofits frequently argue over this term as well.

Grammar Girl, my go-to guru, has focused her hyphenation podcasts mostly on adjectives, such as the time CNBC ticker writers appeared to be squabbling over the issue: “Is the glass half full or half-empty?” In this case, no, you do not have to hyphenate, but she is sure to emphasize that there are many exceptions to the rules of hyphenation.

Compound modifiers are often compound adjectives, like you are applying the adjective as a single unit to a noun. And it’s important to ask: will the hyphen, or lack thereof, affect your meaning? If you’re feeling wrinkly, you may need to re-press your jeans, not repress them like bad memories.

The terms designated in Gregg’s are “hyphenated,” “spaced,” and “solid.” Solid is my favorite descriptor of a word, and it’s the one I’m trying to push for fundraising.

Other words I’ve had questions about were heads-up, clean-up, proof-reading and copy-editing (the title of one of my graduate courses) and, a bizarre attribute that came up in a tipsy conversation: odor-aware.


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