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We have been discussing about how to use the word "non-recurring" exactly as a menu item in a website.Does it make any difference with a hyphen in between? I want to know which is the right way of using this word in a menu. Happy if someone can explain the correct usage and why.

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It depends somewhat on the style guide used, but non recurring wouldn't be correct because non has limited meaning independently.

The Chicago Manual of Style considers non to be a prefix and tries to minimize hyphens for readability. As such, most words beginning with non are closed such nonplussed, nontangled, and such.

Hyphens are used when it would be confusing to the reader (they would probably have to read it more than once to get it) like your example above; although I would probably write it closed, nonrecurring, because the ambiguity is minimal. Generally, hyphenation occurs with words starting with n, or vowels. Non-user, non-numbered, etc., or when the root word is a proper noun such as non-British dealings. When in doubt, you can open a dictionary.

  • Perhaps this is a transatlantic difference, but I would say that inserting a hyphen increases the readability of such words. I would always use a hyphen in non-recurring. – TonyK Dec 1 '16 at 14:42
  • Yes, it definitely depends on the style guide and the dictionary. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary contains several hundred exceptions to my "rules" above, but non(-)recurring isn't one of them. Anybody know what OED says? – Stu W Dec 1 '16 at 16:54
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    @StuW - It's not OED, but dictionary.reference.com often cites Collins for British English definitions. Collins has nonrecurring with no hyphen. – AndyT Dec 1 '16 at 17:00
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    Google Ngram Viewer shows a dramatic reversal of fortunes since the early 60's, with nonrecurring currently way ahead. – TonyK Dec 1 '16 at 17:03
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    The OED uses the hyphenated version as their headword, but the most recent attestation (1998) is closed. It's listed under the general non- entry, along with dozens of other terms, almost all of which are listed as hyphenated and most of which have mixed attestations. In general, the OED seems to be pretty conservative about removing hyphens from non- words. Only a few very old terms are closed even among words well enough established to have their own entry, including nonsense and nonverbal but not, for example, non-transferable or non-linear let alone non-aggression or non-user. – 1006a Dec 1 '16 at 18:07
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As there is no word “non” in the English language I would argue that “non recurring” is incorrect.

Whether you use “non-recurring” or “nonrecurring” is probably personal taste. In the general developement of words hyphenated forms tend to disappear as a word becomes more used and familiar. For what it’s worth, I would use the hyphenated form as I don’t consider this a common word. In fact, because of my age, I would always hyphenate the prefix “non”, but, as already stated, the language changes as tastes do.

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