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I have seen two kind of written format of "one of a kind" phrase,

  1. one of a kind

  2. one-of-a-kind

I'm confused, which one is the proper way of writing "one of a kind" phrase?

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The second link actually clearly states that it's an adjective. See also: To hyphenate or not. –  RegDwigнt Mar 28 '12 at 18:12
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Reg, I simply don't agree with your closing perfectly legitimate questions. There are people who may not even have the comprehension skills to understand grammatical terms. Are we shutting these people out of this forum. Where/whom would they turn to? –  Blessed Geek Mar 29 '12 at 1:39
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closed as not a real question by RegDwigнt Mar 28 '12 at 18:12

It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. For help clarifying this question so that it can be reopened, visit the help center.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

3 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

I see no justification for the hyphens, except in the unlikely circumstance of the phrase being used adjectivally.

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I agree - "one of a kind" is a noun phrase; "one-of-a-kind" is an adjective. –  user16269 Mar 28 '12 at 8:17
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Adjectival usage isn't exactly "unlikely" –  FumbleFingers Mar 28 '12 at 13:33
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The hyphens' function is to join two or more words to show that they belong to each other.

See this example in Oxford Dictionary for Advanced Learners "a non-native speaker of a language is one who has not spoken it from the time they first learnt to talk", where non-native is an adjective.

To better fix the use of hypens for phrases being used adjectivally, read the sentence below:

A knave, a rascal, an eater of broken meats, a base proud, shallow, beggarly, three-suited, hundrea-pound, filthy-worsted stocking knawe; a lily-livered, actiontaking, whoreson glass-gazing super serviceable finical rogue, one-trunk-inheriting slave.
— Sheakspeare

Here, certainly Sheakspeare would been able adding one-of-a-kind (followed to other word ... !).

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Depends.

Is the expression used as a single adjective before a noun? If so, use hyphens (see example 1). For example: "He is a one-of-a-kind man."

Is the expression used as a predicate adjective after the verb to describe a noun before the verb? If so, don't use hyphens (see example 2). For example: "That man is one of a kind."

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