hyphens: nouns with adjectives and participles

  1. Hyphenate noun-plus-adjective compounds (in that order), whether they are used attributively (before the noun) or predicatively:
    • duty-free goods / The goods were duty-free.
    • tax-exempt bonds / The bonds are tax-exempt.
  2. Hyphenate noun-plus-participle compounds regardless of the position:
    • snow-capped mountains / The mountains are snow-capped.
    • a time-consuming activity / This activity is time-consuming.

    Exceptions: There are a number of them, including handmade and handwritten.

  3. Do not hyphenate compounds formed from a noun and a gerund (present participle used as a noun). Some noun-plus-gerund compounds are written as one word:
    • housekeeping
    • shipbuilding
    • sightseeing
    • cabinetmaking

    Others are written as separate words:

    • decision making
    • power sharing
    • problem solving
    • deficit spending


  • foot-dragging
  • gut-wrenching

See hyphens: compound adjectives for such compounds used adjectivally.

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