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A major grammar conundrum sorted. You’re welcome.

A major grammar conundrum sorted. You’re welcome.

Are you forever questioning whether to write ‘thank you’, ‘thankyou’ or ‘thank-you’?

If you’re like most people, you have a million emails and reports on the go at once. So you have little time to fuss over this kind of stuff, right?

I get it. I really do.

That’s why you need to read and bookmark this post – to resolve all those annoying hyphen conundrums once and for all. 

(You can say ‘thank you’ later.)

Thank you, thankyou or thank-you?

We’re constantly being told how important gratitude is. But if we spell it incorrectly, we can distract readers – and potentially detract from the word’s kind message.  

So what’s the rule?

Never hyphenate this word. It’s either Thank you or Thankyou. And most of the time, thank you is the correct choice.

Here’s the difference.

Thank you is the most commonly used form of this word. It is the verb for to thank.

For example: ‘Thank you for being kind to me today.’

Thankyou, without the space, is either an adjective or a noun.

  • Here, it’s an adjective: ‘I sent a thankyou note to my employer for giving me the job.’ 
  • Here, it’s a noun: ‘The CEO gave me a bonus as a thankyou for all my hard work.’

Thank-you? Absolutely not. This is never the way to go. 

Full-time or full time?

You’re in a full-time course. Or perhaps you work full time. Catch the difference?

It can be confusing. But there are two versions of this compound word that are both grammatically correct – depending on the context.

So what’s the secret? The answer is in whether the word is used as an adjective or an adverb.

  • Hyphenate when it’s an adjective: ‘I have a full-time commitment.’ 
  • Don’t hyphenate when it’s an adverb: ‘I want to work full time.’

An easy way to remember it is to hyphenate the word if it modifies the noun (that is, it comes before the noun). But if the word comes after the noun? Forget that hyphen.

Website, web site or web-site?

It’s not the 1990s anymore, you guys. Website is one word. Without a hyphen. Always.

Website. Website. Website.

Got it? Good.

And you don’t capitalise the W unless it’s the first word in a sentence. It’s old-school.

Curious why? Well, it all changed around the turn of the early-2000s – when the internet became mainstream of course.

Now, websites are so common, it is an official word in the English language.

But what about other digital-age lingo?

The same rule applies to these words:

  • Email not e-mail
  • Online not on-line
  • Cyberspace not cyber-space

Coordinate or co-ordinate?

I know it looks strange at first. But you need to part ways with the tendency to place a hyphen after the prefix ‘co’.

That’s right. The correct choice is coordinate. And the more you coordinate grammar and spelling rules, the easier it gets.  

Here are some more words that – surprisingly – don’t need a hyphen:  

  • Coexist not co-exist
  • Cooperate not co-operate
  • Proactive not pro-active
  • Ultraviolet not ultra-violet
  • Infrared not infra-red

Hold on. That’s not all. I won’t make you abandon all your hyphenated habits just yet.

Hyphens should be used when:

  • The prefix is ‘self’ or ‘ex’
    For example, self-aware and ex-boyfriend

  • The prefix sits before a proper noun
    For example, un-Australian and pro-Liberal

  • The prefix ends in the same vowel that the other word starts with
    For example, re-enter and ultra-argumentative

There’s one more situation when you need to add a hyphen after a prefix: if the definition of the word changes without it.

For example, imagine a salad with dodgy plastic wrap:

  • Inncorect: ‘He recovered the salad.’ (Huh? Where did the salad go?)
  • Correct: ‘He re-covered the salad.’ (Oh! I get it now. He put new plastic wrap on his salad.) 

Two-year-old or two year old?

Days. Weeks. Months. And years.

When it comes to describing periods of time, it’s easy to get our hyphens in a twist.

So what’s the secret? It all comes down to where the subject or noun comes in the sentence.

Let me explain.

Subject comes first? Leave out the hyphens. Subject second? You’ll need a hyphen.

  • Subject first: ‘Our daughter is two years old.’
  • Subject second: ‘We have a two-year-old daughter.’

User-friendly or user friendly?

I haven’t been very kind to hyphens so far. So I thought I’d switch gears – and share the GOOD they serve in our sentences.

Hyphens can provide clarity, erase confusion and create an enjoyable reading experience. 

For example, if you describe your software as user friendly, for a nanosecond I might read that your software is just user… huh? Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Here are more examples to illustrate my point:

  • Sam is wide-eyed not Sam is wide eyed
    Without the hyphen, I might think Sam is wide…
  • Clare is ill-humoured not Clare is ill humoured
    Without the hyphen, I might think Clare is ill…

  • The puppy is high-spirited not The puppy is high spirited
    Without the hyphen, I might think the puppy is high…

  • My teacher is dead-serious not My teacher is dead serious
    Without the hyphen, I might think my teacher is dead…

This same rule applies to phrases with more than two words:

  • Kate’s reaction was over-the-top.
  • The government is well-thought-of.
  • The website is up-to-date.

Thank you for your time. I hope this article will improve your website writing and reduce confusion around two-word and three-word phrases.