Janice Hall Heck

Finding hope in a chaotic world…

Archive for the tag “hyphenated compound words”

Another Writing Quirk: Front Yard and Backyard

logo 2.2This is quirky. Front yard is two words, and backyard is one word.


In our recent On the Horizon, the newsletter for our 55+ community, I asked for pictures of animals that wander through our woodsy backyards. Here are a few of our visitors…

deer 4.

deer 8

deer 5..

 deer 3


5-2014 possum

Our backyard woodsy critters: deer, turkey, opossum, and more.


Backyard. Front yard. Compound words can be tricky, so if in doubt, look the word up in your dictionary. Here are a few compound words that popped up in the current issue of our newsletter:

Sometimes compound words can be written as two words (open compounds):

front yard
pool room
egg rolls
solar panel

Sometimes compound words cam be hyphenated (hyphenated compounds: two-word adjectives)

on-duty police officers
town-wide activities
half-way point
smoke-only detectors
battery-powered smoke detectors
extra-virgin olive oil
soft-shelled crab
man-made canal

Sometimes they can be written as one word (closed compounds):


Don’t be surprised if you see a few words that can be written two ways or that two dictionaries do not agree on the spelling, hyphenation, or spacing. That’s just how these quirky compound words go.

database or data base
hard-wired or hardwired
line up or line-up

The current trend, according to the Chicago Manual of Style, is toward closed compounds. Compound words that start off as two words move to two words with a hyphen, then to one combined word (on line, on-line, online; e-mail, email).

Regardless of the current trend, check your dictionary if you are not sure of the spelling, hyphenation, or spacing of compound words.

Related Articles:

D is for Deep-Fried Hyphens
F is for Freshly Squeezed Adverbs
G is for Gobs of Hyphens Used Correctly

Janice Hall Heck, retired educator, blogger, wannabe photographer, and nitpicky editor of On the Horizon, a bi-monthly community newsletter for Horizons at Woods Landing, Mays Landing, NJ, is quite possibly a grammar geek.

logo 2.2Oh Heck! Another Writing Quirk:  blog posts that suggest ways to improve our writing by avoiding and/or eliminating troublesome bug-a-boos that cramp our writing style.



Hyper-Hyphenated Words Make Surprising Adjectives

a-to-z-letters-2013Hello. It’s H-Day in the A to Z Challenge.

H is for Hyphens

Hyphens have been called lots of names: left-over punctuation marks, “the smallest of the little  hyphenhorizontal line thingies” (The Grammar Cat), and “short and sweet” as compared to the dash which is long and lean (Laurie Rozakis, Complete Idiot’s Guide to Grammar and Style).  Laurie Rozakis says that the dash and the hyphen are like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Danny DeVito: Confused so often they are taken for each other.

Sometimes called stacked modifiers, or make-it-up-as-you-go adjectives, these adjectives can be humorous if used sparingly, or annoying if overused. This is a “what-you-may-have-been-wondering-about topic” (Grammar Girl), or maybe not.

They look something like this:

  • He has a jump-off-the-page personality.
  • We went to a shoot-em-up movie.
  • I’m a pretty easy-going, live-and-let-live kinda girl.

Personally, I’m a love-those-hyphenated-compound-adjectives-kind-of-person! Evidently a few other writers like these phrasal adjectives, too. Here are a few samples.

So What. Who Cares?oh-my cat

Of course, these stacked adjectives can get silly if they are overused, but somehow, just once-in-awhile, a stacked adjective does the job.    This one, for example:  “my good-for-nothing, pot-smoking, boyfriend-of-the-moment…” (Heather Marie Adkins). Now that one just gets right to the point.

The Last Meow

Terribly Cute pic...cat attitudeNow to the really important stuff. Here’s how to make cat faces on your very own keyboard. How’s that for a neat cat trick?

=<^ . ^>=   Meow for now.

What’s your favorite hyphenated stacked modifier?

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