How do I list multiple things that are compound words?

In my own language I'm used to writing these lists like this:

"I kicked foot-, basket-, and volleyball"

The sentence is supposed to mean that I kicked all types of balls (football, basketball and volleyball). However, it does not seem correct to me. Should I write them as whole words, with or without hyphen, or how?

  • 2
    Possible duplicate of Can a hyphen be used without anything on the right side? and addressed also at A suspended hyphen in a list with only one hyphenated word. Commented Nov 27, 2015 at 12:01
  • This is a case, however where the only words that appear with hyphens are not normally hyphenated words but whole closed up words (football, basketball, and volleyball). The hyphens in this case are there not to mark the reproduced portion of each hyphenated word but to mark where truncation of each whole word has occurred. I think that the situation is related but distinctly different from the one in the "-friendly" example cited in Edwin Ashworth's comment above.
    – Sven Yargs
    Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 10:18
  • I'm assuming from your profile name I think you are referring to Finnish as "own language". Even in case of Finnish that style (e.g. "jalka- ja koripallo" literally meaning foot- and basketball) is technically an abbreviation style that's common enough to be used in both written and spoken form. Finnish also has related abbreviation style for common prefix: e.g. "syntymäaika ja -paikka" meaning literally "birth date and -place" which is interepreted as "syntymäaika ja syntymäpaikka" meaning date of birth and birthplace. However, in Finnish, those abbreviations are always read as written. Commented Aug 25, 2022 at 12:02

2 Answers 2


Basketball, football and volleyball fall under the category of closed compound words. These are combinations of two words that are not separated by a space or a hyphen. For more information on the types of compound words, check this out.

So your sentence should essentially be

I kicked a football, a basketball and a volleyball.

Suspended hyphenation(the case in a phrase like pre- and post-war implying pre-war and post-war) comes into picture only while dealing with hyphenated words. This article will guide you through it. Hope that helped!

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    Not according to CMOS, which allows 'both over- and underfed cats' as an abbreviated form of 'both overfed and underfed cats'. And I'd assume more people take advice from CMOS than from Judy Vorfeld. Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 8:33

It only makes sense when the word has significance in isolation. Foot, volley, basket may not connect to your audience well. Either find a word that can group them. ( don't know if it exists in this case) For example - board games.

  • None of these 3 are "board games". Maybe you can suggest a different word, such as team sports? Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 9:04

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