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Toll-free: noun-plus-adjective compound

Question:

Is the correct spelling toll-free or toll free?

Answer:

Confusion arises because there are as many as three possible spellings for compounds (i.e. as one word, two words or two words with a hyphen). Even the experts often don't agree. For writers and editors, hyphenation is definitely a hot topic. In this case, the Gage Canadian Dictionary and the Canadian Oxford Dictionary recommend the spelling toll-free for the adjective and the adverb.

For example:

  • The agency has a toll-free number. (used as an attributive adjective)
  • The agency's number is toll-free. (used as a predicate adjective)
  • You may call us toll-free. (used as an adverb)

The Canadian Style says that noun-plus-adjective compounds, such as toll-free, are always hyphenated regardless of whether they are used attributively (next to the noun) or predicatively (as an adverb or a predicate adjective). Keeping this rule of thumb in mind should help with similar hyphenation quandaries that you may have.