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Write the Right Word: When Not to Use a Hyphen

Knowing when and when not to use a hyphen can be confusing.

Here are some words that do not require a hyphen when used as a noun or adjective (noun modifier) and are two words when used as a verb, according to the Associated Press Stylebook, which we follow for spelling, grammar and punctuation:

  • Backup – One word as a noun and adjective but two words as a verb. For example, “She will serve as a backup to the secretary.” “I hope we have a backup plan.” “I have to back up because a fallen tree across the road is blocking my way forward.”
  • Login, logon, logoff – One word as a noun but two words as a verb. For example, “A login is required every time you access this website.” “I log off my computer at the end of the day.”
  • Ongoing – One word in all cases. “Drought is an ongoing problem in the Midwest.” “The program is ongoing.”
  • Online – One word when referring to a computer connection or as an adjective – For example: “You will be able to register for the workshop online.” “I am involved in online trading.”
  • Pickup – One word unless used as a verb. For example, “He bought a pickup.” “I will pick up my friends at 5 p.m.”
  • Setup - One word as a noun and adjective but two words as a verb. For example, “He rearranged the setup in the meeting room.” “I don’t like the setup options.” “She hopes to set up the display tonight.”
  • Takeoff, takeout, takeover - One word as a noun and adjective but two words as a verb. For example, “I’m ordering takeout for supper.” “Please take out the trash.” “The business succeeded in its takeover of a major competitor.” “Would you take over this task?”

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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