Words One Can-not Hyphenate

evanbrog's picture

I once read an article that had a relatively small list of words one should never hyphenate. The hyphenated word became two entities so far removed from the topic that they should be avoided at all costs.

Anyone know that article?

What words can you think of that would fit this bill?

jabez's picture

Hmm, the Economist Style Guide might be helpful.

"third world war (if things get bad)" - Lol'ed at this :D

Don McCahill's picture

An early newspaper pagination system, probably back in the 60s or early 70s, was reported to have hyphenated the word God. (I'm not sure which position the hyphen fell in, but the editor apparently used an unhyphenated God **** in his response when seeing the paper).

charles ellertson's picture

I know this is off-topic since the words can be hyphenated, but the "hyphenation routines" in some computer systems have given a few real howlers. My wife reported "cow-orker" (for co-worker) long ago, and InDesign gave her sono-fabitch, in a book written, apparently, by one of Wyatt Earp's descendants. A "cow orker" sounds a bit gross, but "sono fabitch" has a nice sound.

cerulean's picture

The classic example of a word presenting a hazard in hyphenation is "therapist".

In Don's story, it may have been the traditional Jewish way to censor "G-d", and the system used the present hyphen as a line break. An en dash might be more appropriate, but I imagine it wouldn't prevent the problem!

evanbrog's picture


yes! therapist was one of those words i was looking for! i wonder how many more can be found from SNL celebrity jeopardy.

i'm sure there are many words that lose their meaning but that is precisely what i'm talking about

Don McCahill's picture

Cooperative might be another, if the hyphen is placed after the p instead of between the os.

dtw's picture

Our setters have fairly regular call to set "streetsweeper" and it took a bit of work to get 'em to hyphenate before the s, not after :-/
I love my old 1985 Collins English Dictionary for the very reason that it's the last one I've seen to give preferred and to-be-avoided hyphenation points in all the headwords.

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