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I can't find a definite spelling of this term. Different resources on the Internet show all three versions of it.

What is the correct way of spelling it?

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Kind of duplicate? –  Thursagen May 21 '11 at 6:21
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2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Let me say this up front: The NGram mplungian shows is pretty, but also irrelevant to your question. First, it includes "be" in the phrase, which is not really the phrase you asked. Second, Google NGrams has a bug which causes all hyphenated words to flatline (try it yourself, you'll see). And we know that occurrences of "up-front" are not non-existent.

Use "up front" when it's not a modifier:

Let's see if we can find a seat up front.

But hyphenate it when it is:

Ralph had an up-front air about him. You never had to dig to find out what was on his mind.

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to search for hyphenated words in n-grams, you just have to separate them into a trigram: up - front. This is an artefact of how Ngrams treats punctuation in general. The corrected graph is pretty similar to mplungian’s original, so I’ve just edited it into his answer. –  PLL May 21 '11 at 10:53
    
Thanks, @pll - appreciated –  mplungjan May 21 '11 at 12:26
    
the hyphen seems to often be left out too. See here google.com/…; –  mplungjan May 21 '11 at 12:30
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Oxford Dictionaries definition.

Up front in the cinema, or upfront/up-front about something.

Google ngrams comparison.

Ngram

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The OP asked about "up front", not "be up front". –  Robusto May 21 '11 at 10:29
    
@Robusto: the same search without the be gives an almost identical graph. This doesn’t fix the hyphenation issue, of course. –  PLL May 21 '11 at 10:43
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Ah! Reading up on how Ngrams treats punctuation leads to a way around the hyphenation issue: you just have to separate it a hyphenated word into a trigram. Editing answer with the corrected graph. –  PLL May 21 '11 at 10:49
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