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Hyphens in Compound Words

Is it "coffee-house," "coffee house," or "coffeehouse"?

By
Mignon Fogarty,

Hyphens in Compound Words

While looking up how to write "coffeehouse," I encountered a common problem: different dictionaries handle compound words differently and formatting can change over time.

It appears that it used to be hyphenated ("coffee-house"), but now it's most commonly written as a closed compound ("coffeehouse"). At least one dictionary entry also shows the open compound ("coffee house") as an acceptable alternative.

I decided to go with "coffeehouse." If you're not sure whether a word is an open compound, closed compound, or hyphenated compound, the only thing you can do is pick a dictionary and go with its recommendation.

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About the Author

Mignon Fogarty

Mignon Fogarty is the founder of the Quick and Dirty Tips network and creator of Grammar Girl, which has been named one of Writer's Digest's 101 best websites for writers multiple times. The Grammar Girl podcast has also won Best Education Podcast multiple times in the Podcast Awards, and Mignon is an inductee in the Podcasting Hall of Fame. Mignon is the author of the New York Times best-seller "Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" and six other books on writing. She has appeared as a guest on the "Oprah Winfrey Show" and the "Today Show" and has been featured in the New York Times, Business Week, the Washington Post, USA Today, CNN.com, and more. She was previously the chair of media entrepreneurship in the Reynolds School of Journalism in Reno, NV. She hates the phrase "grammar nazi" and loves the word "kerfuffle." She has a B.A. in English from the University of Washington in Seattle and an M.S. in biology from Stanford University. Mignon believes that learning is fun, and the vast rules of grammar are wonderful fodder for lifelong study. 

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