How would I hypenate the phrase 'high poverty public school?'

My first guess was 'high-poverty public school', but I'm not really sure.

  • I assume you are using the term 'public school' in its American sense. I think this is important to your question, because in Britain the term 'public school' means a highly elitist fee-paying school that is independent of direct state subsidy. (fees at many of them could easily be as high as $70,000 per annum per child) It would be unlikely to be associated with 'high-poverty'. – WS2 Oct 30 '14 at 22:02
  • 2
    Used in the British sense I would write high-poverty public school, assuming there were such an institution. – WS2 Oct 30 '14 at 22:25
  • "high-poverty-public school" is a school where the public is very poor, and I can't meaningfully parse "high poverty-public school" or "high poverty public school", so I'd say your first guess is just fine. – Amadan Oct 31 '14 at 0:43
  • @Amadan Now you have explained what the American sense means, I would recommend 'high-poverty-public school'. It is not a term which would ever be used in Britain: a) because 'public school' has a specific meaning, and b) the different social and welfare demographics do not lend themselves to such descriptors. – WS2 Oct 31 '14 at 7:47

High poverty is a compound adjective in which the meaning is not significantly changed by a hyphen. You may choose to use a hyphen, in which case this becomes a hyphenated stacked modifier. The hyphen is not required because there is no significant difference between a high poverty noun and a high-poverty noun. (Contrast with the difference between a violent-weather conference and a violent weather conference.)

Public school is a compound noun. The adjective, hyphenated or not, does not take another hyphen between itself and the noun. Therefore, the correct usages are high-poverty public school or high poverty public school. High-poverty-public school would remove the compound noun meaning of 'public school' and shift public into part of the adjective, implying the school belongs to or serves a high poverty public.

| improve this answer | |
  • That is not my understanding from what @Amadan has commented. That suggests to me that it is a school in an area where there is a 'high-poverty public', and that would call for double hyphenation if a further noun were added, such has high-poverty-public hospital. I don't necessarily accept this to be the intended meaning, but we do need to be clear on meaning before considering the number of hyphens. Is it the school which is 'high-poverty', or the public around it? – WS2 Oct 31 '14 at 7:54
  • @WS2: I'll actually agree with rwollr: "public" in "high-poverty-public school" is a noun, thus it's a school where the public is high-poverty. And I also agree that if "public school" is a compound lexical item, the hyphen is not needed (so "high poverty public school" is a public school that has something to do with a situation of high poverty, presumably one where high poverty of students is an issue, as opposed to "very poor public school", a school with not enough funding). – Amadan Oct 31 '14 at 8:11
  • @Amadan I am still not clear as to whether the 'high poverty' is meant to describe the school, or its public hinterland. – WS2 Oct 31 '14 at 16:03
  • @WS2 Depends on how you write it. High poverty is a compound adjective, meaning being very poverty-stricken. A high-poverty public school is a public school that is poverty-stricken, which presumably will refer to the facility, faculty and students. Contrast with an affluent public school, which can be expected to be well maintained, utilize a staff of well paid teachers, and be comprised of a well-off student body. A high-poverty-public school could be a school that itself is not necessarily poverty-stricken but which serves a public that is. – rw-nandemo Oct 31 '14 at 23:10

I believe it would be High-Poverty, Public School.

you would say, "my sister was just admitted to a high-poverty, public school, on the lower east side."

| improve this answer | |
  • 4
    I've never seen a comma used in such a context. – Hot Licks Oct 31 '14 at 1:30
  • But is it the school which is 'high-poverty'. or is it the 'public' of the area in which it is situate? – WS2 Oct 31 '14 at 7:56

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.