Writing Question: Whether or Not To Hyphenate


High school

Or high-school

This was brought up by a loving reader who sends me small lists of edits for my chapters. Normally I am quick to take his advice. However, I don’t normally see this hyphenated and several sites say it is not.

I’m assuming this is something that might be different for different countries.

So in the US, should ‘high school’ be hyphenated?


I don’t think so. I never really see people hyphenate it outside of WP.


I don’t either.


Yeah, in the US, that’s definitely not hyphenated - at least not usually. And you’re right in thinking that hyphen rules are different for different countries. I have a British friend who describes their English as “hypen-happy” - basically they require the use of them a lot more.


Forgive me if I get this wrong, but I think if the words are used to modify another word, then you hyphenate: “he is a friend from high school” / “he is a high-school student” - I think the rule has a clarity exception - if the hyphen makes it less clear, leave it out. High school is a very common term for most folks. However, you could play devil’s advocate and point out that a person reading “he is a high school student” could interpret that unhyphenated modifer as “he is a stoned school student”.

My favorite reference of all time is the Associated Press Stylebook. It’s spendy but def pick one up if you can afford it - they do such a good job of explaining EVERYTHING with examples, and the book itself changes and updates each year. If you spring for one - get one with a wire binding that will lie flat.


As a native English speaker, I’ve never heard of this. Hyphenating high school looks bizarre to me.


It really does.


Nope. It shouldn’t be. :wink:

“High school” shouldn’t be hyphened, or even capitalized, as there is no need for it to be.


The debate is deep and lengthy here … as mentioned, clarity and common use trump the rules.


“high” as in drugs is slang, so it shouldn’t weigh into this debate all that much. I’m not really sure what other context “high high schooler”, for example, would occur in. I don’t think “high high-schooler” (that got a redline from my computer!) is any less ambiguous.


Exactly - clarity and common use trump the rules.


As does common usage. If we all write in a certain way it becomes a rule