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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

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6  
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

1 Answer 1

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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