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When is it necessary to use a hyphen in writing a compound word?

While writing a technical paper about fiber optics this question about hyphens came out.

Should this words be used with or without a hyphen?

  • Mono-channel or monochannel

  • Multi-channel or multichannel

On published technical papers both forms are found. I would like to know which one is correct.

Thanks you.

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Seconding the above. That said, going off the top voted answer for said question I'd say that multichannel and monochannel are 'more' correct, but both could probably work. –  Alicia Butteriss Dec 21 '12 at 20:42
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marked as duplicate by Matt Эллен, FumbleFingers, tchrist, Bill Franke, Kris Dec 22 '12 at 7:42

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1 Answer

Here's what Google is telling me:

  • "mono-channel" returns ~500,000 results
  • "monochannel" returns ~100,000 results
  • "multi-channel" returns ~19,000,000 results
  • "multichannel" returns ~13,000,000 results

I would say that to describe a configuration involving multiple channels, use either "multichannel" or "multi-channel". Do not use both in the same paper; you want to maintain consistency.

To describe a configuration involving a single channel, "mono-channel" is acceptable, but "monochannel" is almost certainly non-standard (even my browser underlines it as a spelling error).

Personally, I would use "single-channel" rather than "mono-channel", as single is sort of the complement to multiple. Using the prefix mono- implies that you also want to be using the term stereo-, which is more specific than multi-.

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Google is notoriously unreliable when it comes to hyphens. COCA actually prefers multichannel (111) over multi-channel (21), and by a larger margin to boot. It also does not have a single cite for either monochannel or mono-channel. Single-channel gets 42 hits. And of course it's likely that the real answer to this question is: different departments will have different guidelines; look at what your peers do; ask your professor/reviewer/publisher. –  RegDwigнt Dec 21 '12 at 20:58
American publishers strongly prefer skipping the hyphen with multi. See here. –  tchrist Dec 21 '12 at 21:32
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