To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate. . .

Steve Bainbridge has stumbled upon a problem that I’m sure has been keeping many of you up at night:

I write about corporate decisionmaking a lot, which means I use the word decisionmaking (also decisionmakers) a lot. I habitually spell decisionmaking as one word, which seems to drive law review editors batty. Sometimes they split it into two words; sometimes they hyphenate; and somethimes they leave it alone but complain. What do you think? Take the poll in the left sidebar.

I write about policy-making, so am all too familiar with this issue. The Chicago Manual of Style sets forth the following rule:

  • Don’t use a hyphen for simple verb phrases: She is good at decision making.
  • Do use a hyphen when the phrase modifies a noun: decision-making process
  • There is, so far as I know, no instance where the conjoined “decisionmaking” is proper, although I’ve seen it written that way.

    FILED UNDER: Education, ,
    James Joyner
    About James Joyner
    James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


    1. Boyd says:

      But of course, you’re a grammar god, James. 🙂

    2. James Joyner says:

      Quizilla don’t lie.

    3. jen says:

      It’s been a while since I actually used the Chicago Manual of Style. But Strunk & White is falling apart.

    4. Kate says:

      I’m going highwaydriving tomorrow, after which I’ll be dogshowing, and then, if I’m hungry, I’ll stop by Burger King for a little Whoppereating.

    5. Attila Girl says:

      Don’t laugh. After many years as a copy editor, who copy-edited stories by means of copy-editing, I’m now a copy editor who copyedits stories by copyediting them. Over the past few years the feeling emerged–at least on the magazine side of publishing–that this was cleaner than either using a hyphen or leaving the phrase open.

      I do, however, feel we should at least be consistent. Which would make me into a copyeditor.

      I use Chicago on occasion. But I’m a Words Into Type chick, myself.

    6. P.S. I still engage in fact-checking. It’s the only hyphen left on my invoices.

    7. McGehee says:

      Well, I’m blogreading right now, but I would hesitate to characterize myself as a blogreader. It sounds too much like newsreader, which I’ve grown accustomed to having refer to an SNMP client like Free Agent…