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What is the correct punctuation for the phrase: one size fits all?

I have seen two variants:

  • 'one size fits all', and
  • one-size-fits-all
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closed as general reference by MετάEd, Kris, J.R., tchrist, Mitch Oct 22 '12 at 20:24

This question is too basic; it can be definitively and permanently answered by a single link to a standard internet reference source designed specifically to find that type of information.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all answer to this; It depends on how it's being used. – Jim Oct 21 '12 at 1:32
Heh, I set myself up for that one! – fmark Oct 22 '12 at 2:06
up vote 12 down vote accepted

If the phrase is used as an adjective (which it usually is), then hyphenate it:

It is a one-size-fits-all solution.

This hat is one-size-fits-all.

The phrase could be used as an independent clause, however, with "one size" being the subject:

These hats are great. One size fits all, you know.

So in all but the last case, which I imagine is pretty rare, include the hyphens.

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You beat me by two seconds! – StoneyB Oct 21 '12 at 1:42
You never know who else might be out there just itching to answer a usage question! Our answers were almost identical, too. – Dan Hauer Oct 21 '12 at 1:45
Yah, but you got the predicative use in, too. +1 – StoneyB Oct 21 '12 at 1:51

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