Posted by: Jack Henry | October 20, 2022

Editor’s Corner: Compound Words

Hello, friends.

Not long ago, I wrote about new words that were recently added to the dictionary. Many of the entries were actually composed of two words (gift economy, side hustle, video doorbell), and Nathan A. asked an interesting question: Is it common for dictionaries to have entries that contain two words?

My write up was about new words not new phrases, right? Yes!

Nathan makes a great point, and it would have been prudent of me to mention in that original article that many of the words being added are what we call compound words.

Compound words come in three varieties: open, hyphenated, and closed. The words Nathan asked about are known as open compound words.

Often, there’s a progression from open to closed, but compound words don’t always end up as closed compounds. And just to add a little confusion, many hyphenated compound words are hyphenated when they precede a noun (because adjectives that precede nouns are typically hyphenated), but they are open when they follow a noun. Here are a couple of sentences to show you what I mean:

  • They offered a long-term solution.
  • The solution they offered was for the long term.

The following table provides just a few examples of all three types of compound words:

Open Compound Words Hyphenated Compound Words Closed Compound Words
chat room follow-up afternoon
high school get-together airplane
ice cream high-tech bookstore
new world long-term goldfish
remote control up-to-date homemade
role play warm-up notebook

Thanks for the question, Nathan!

Kara and I really appreciate the feedback we get from all of you. The questions you ask and the comments you send make writing the Editor’s Corner articles so fun for both of us. Thanks for letting us be part of your day.

Donna Bradley Burcher |Technical Editor, Advisory | jack henry™

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123

Pronouns she/her/hers

Symitar Documentation Services

About Editor’s Corner

Editor’s Corner keeps your communication skills sharp by providing information on grammar, punctuation, JHA style, and all things English. As editors, we spend our days reading, researching, and revising other people’s writing. We love to spend a few extra minutes to share what we learn with you and keep it fun while we’re doing it.

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