Which is the proper spelling of "nonstop?"



non stop



  • Which is more popular with Ngram? – Hot Licks Jan 17 '16 at 0:11
  • 2
    Related question, When is it necessary to use a hyphen in writing a compound word?. – user140086 Jan 17 '16 at 3:51
  • Unfortunately, because of the way its software was designed, Ngram can't track instances of "non-stop" or any other hyphenated word, so you won't get valid results from Ngram when you use it to compare the relative frequency of hyphenated and nonhyphenated versions of a word. – Sven Yargs Jan 17 '16 at 5:51

It appears that in the British English corpus the hyphenated version, non-stop music (blue line), is much preferred.

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Whereas in American English, the spelling nonstop music (red line) is overwhelmingly preferred, and has been since the 1980s.

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Dictionary.com informs that nonstop (without a space) was first used between 1900 and 1905.

Choose whichever spelling you prefer, they are both “correct”.


To dispel doubts on the validity of these Ngram results, which I never claim were 100% accurate, I ran the expression worked nonstop through Ngram Viewer. The blue line represents the American English corpus while the red line is British English, and compared the two dialects together.

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There is therefore strong evidence to suggest that American English writers prefer the solid one word (nonstop) compare to its hyphenated version.


The Oxford Guide to Style (2002) does a nice job of identifying where mainstream UK and U.S. style preferences tend to diverge on the issue of how to handle prefixes such as non-:

5.10.2 Prefixes and combining forms

Words with prefixes are often set as one word, but use a hyphen to avoid confusion or mispronunciation, particularly where there is a collision of vowels or consonants:

[Relevant examples:] non-effective non-negotiable

The hyphen is used less in US practice. Words beginning with non- and re-, for example, are often set as one word:

[Relevant examples:] noneffective nonnegotiable

Since nonstop doesn't seem liable to confusion or mispronunciation, and since it doesn't involve a crash of the same consonant (as, for example, non-negotiable does), I imagine that Oxford would have no problem with setting nonstop as one hyphenless word.

The Chicago Manual of Style, fifteenth edition (2003), certainly endorses the closed-up, no-hyphen treatment of most prefix-and-stem combinations, in keeping with the "US practice" that Oxford mentions above. Here is Chicago's advice, in section 7.90, for words containing the non- prefix:

3. Words Formed with Prefixes

Compounds formed with prefixes are normally closed, whether they are nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.


non: nonviolent, nonevent, nonnegotiable, but non-beer-drinking

Other style guides differ, and of course personal preferences are all over the map; but the coverage in Oxford and Chicago strongly suggests that UK usage is split (or indifferent) as between non-stop and nonstop, while U.S. usage definitely favors the latter.

But just to emphasize an essential point that others have made in comments and answers here, nonstop vs. non-stop vs. non stop is ultimately a style issue, not a matter of correct or incorrect spelling in the sense that, say, clohes vs. clothes is.


Non is a prefix, so using non stop (two words) is incorrect.


Both forms are used, but a Google search of non-stop yields 347,000,000 results, and a Google search on nonstop yields 83,800,000 results. So as far as usage, non-stop is used four times more often than nonstop.

  • Ngram shows "nonstop" being the most common form since about 1970. – Hot Licks Jan 17 '16 at 4:46
  • I assume that nonstop usage will grow a lot with the pressures of texting producing minimization of letter usage, including the extra motion to add the hyphen. It doesn't mean that it is proper English, but it is gaining widespread acceptability. – Rxdoxx Jan 18 '16 at 18:13
  • Yes, that usage will grow nonstop. – Hot Licks Jan 18 '16 at 19:25
  • (I would hazard to guess that the rise in use of "nonstop" is largely due to the airlines. The late 60s-early70s is when airline travel began to be something that ordinary people might consider, and hence the significance of having a "nonstop" connection increased exponentially.) – Hot Licks Jan 18 '16 at 19:36

There is no such thing as proper spelling, only what is popular at the moment or idiomatic to a country or region. Consider that the taste of food is spelled either "flavor" or "flavour" and that "tomorrow" used to be spelled "to-morrow" (as was to-day) and I think you'll see that. Personally, I would opt for "non-stop" however I am sure there are many users who will say that is completely and utterly wrong because [fill in the blank with a reason that makes sense.]


One has to differentiate between English in the traditional Oxford form or the Webster interpretation which is much more accepting of colloquialism. The correct Oxford English would be:


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