My question is as stated in the title.

In a very famous article, I noticed the author used the word - "nonexperiment". I looked up the word and it is not actually a word, so I believe it should be written as "non-experiment". Am I wrong? Furthermore, my professor used the word binwidth, and it is not a word. Thus, I would write it as bin-width, but only because it is not a word.

I believe grammar and sentence structures are not explicitly well defined. But I do believe there are general definitions, and on top of that, experts in writing have extended the definitions based on their own opinion. Thus, even though I consider myself a beginner in writing, I would rather accept and use the words "nonexperiment" and "binwidth".

My professor considers himself as a terrible writer, but I like his style because it is not difficult for me to understand. Is it possible he used the word - "binwidth" incorrectly?

  • 1
    The oxford dictionary page on hyphens should answer your questions: oxforddictionaries.com/words/hyphen Basically binwidth and nonexperiment can use a hyphen but don't need one, but there are other cases where a hyphen is needed – JessWelch Feb 23 '14 at 3:42
  • The general concept you are referring to here is called style. It is the more subjective side of grammar and usage. There are several major and well accepted style manuals out there which can be of use when learning to write. Strunk and White and The Chicago Manual of Style are two very famous ones. – David M Feb 23 '14 at 4:04

At the outset I should warn you that not all style manuals are alike. With that out of the way, here is probably the most relevant excerpt from The Chicago Manual of Style:

When using this guide (a return to the tabular format of earlier editions of this manual), consult the preceding paragraphs in this section (7.77–84)—especially if a relevant example cannot be found. In general, Chicago prefers a spare hyphenation style: if no suitable example or analogy can be found either in this section or in the dictionary, hyphenate only if doing so will aid readability. Each of the four sections of the following table is arranged alphabetically (by first column). The first section deals with compounds according to category; the second section, with compounds according to parts of speech. The third section lists examples for words commonly used as elements in compounds. The fourth section lists common prefixes, most of which join to another word to form one unhyphenated word; note especially the hyphenated exceptions, not all of which agree with Webster’s. (Compounds formed with suffixes—e.g., nationhood, penniless—are almost always closed.)

The fourth section of the table referred to here gives these guidelines:

snip of table under "Hyphenation guide for compounds and words formed with prefixes"

The Associated Press Stylebook is another good (and perhaps more user-friendly) resource.


Generally now, hyphenation is only used for clarity or to avoid confusion. The exception would be compound modifiers, which once you begin to hyphenate (as most people do not) you notice when they're missing.

I go for the unhyphenated "non." Or un-hyphenated. In time the hyphens will drop out of these terms, as they always do.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.