Self-Service or Self Service.

For example, Self-Service restaurants, Self-Service Websites, etc..

Another example, multi-platform, multi-factor, etc..

Is the hyphen a must?

  • The prenominal usage seems (as expected) to uniformly be the hyphenated compound. I haven't found dictionary authorisation for a hyphenated predicative usage, but in Google searches for "shops are self-service" the hyphenated and open forms seem about equally idiomatic. I'd consider the hyphenated form better as I feel the term merits – almost needs – the outward show of cohesiveness. The solid form would look too fussy. Aug 18 '20 at 13:56

As a compound adjective, yes, the hyphen is a must to avoid confusion in instances such as this admittedly rather contrived newspaper-type heading example:

Help your self service restaurants survive.

Is this:

Help your self! Service restaurants! Survive!
Help your self-service restaurants survive.
Help your self. Service restaurants survive.

  • I agree about the prior compound adjective. But if one said 'Because of the difficulty recruiting staff, the restaurant is switching over to self service'. Would that require a hyphen, in your view?
    – WS2
    Feb 19 '14 at 12:46
  • 'switching over to self service' - In this case, I can understand the correct meaning of the sentence even without the hyphen. I would also like to know whether a hyphen in necessary in this example.
    – user55938
    Feb 19 '14 at 13:07

Hyphenate only as a compound modifier: I asked her to provide self service. It is a self-service gas station.


Self-Service is best used with a hyphen usually because it is a compound word " adjective+noun". You should give this link a glance, it explains where you have to use hyphens. Now a days not many care about using hyphens where they have to be used. Worse, people try to use hyphens and apostrophe (') and go terribly wrong (always makes for a good laugh though), I feel these are the two punctuation marks often used wrong.


Nandagopal I don't know why you speak with such authority on this subject as it's sadly misplaced. Self is a prefix and ALWAYS has to be hyphenated. There is no independent word 'self' in English (except as a noun in areas such as psychology). Self-service is the only correct form in standard English. The same applies to other much abused prefixes such as 'non' and 'multi' in that they have to be prefixed to the words they relate to (with a hyphen or directly attached). They cannot stand alone as they are not actual words.

  • This is incorrect. The word self is a word, not a prefix. It is also part of other words, such as "myself." But it is often used as a noun in sentences such as "He has a strong sense of self" or "his sense of self is inflated." It also true that it is used in many compound-adjectival phrases, such as "self worth." Hyphenation is often more of a style question than a strict spelling or grammar question. That is, one publication may do it one way, and another may prescribe a different treatment.
    – user8356
    Sep 3 '19 at 12:58

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