I don't know if I read this somewhere over the years or made it up. Is there a preference or rule anywhere that says to omit hyphens in titles unless removing them changes meaning?

  • How could that be, please, Lynn? How did the hyhen get there in the first place, that it needs to be omitted when the phrase becomes a title? If you mean, is it wrong to use hyphens in titles then no, it's not; for two reasons. First because hyphens are sometimes needed; not optional, needed. Further because rules for titles are never more, and usually very much less strict than rules for ordinary text. Commented Sep 25, 2017 at 20:53
  • I feel like I made this up, the thing about using less punctuation in titles. I used to have a little clipping on my bulletin board that was written by the renowned NYT copy chief of that time. It was about hyphens and it was lovely. The basic idea was always remove them if you can, as punctuation that isn't necessary is "clutter." It stuck with me. The title in question here is "7 Low-Carb Lunches," an instance where you can do away with the comma without introducing ambiguity. I know there are exceptions for familiar compounds like real estate (you don't have to write "real-estate agent.") Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 18:39
  • Yes and I thought you meant specifically omitting hyphens unless it alters meaning, rather than generally using less punctuation to avoid clutter… Still, circumstances alter cases. There’s slim chance of low-carb lunches going down the wrong way but real-estate is a lot less clear. Consider a buyers’ guide titled How to rate a real estate agent, with or without a hyphen, with readers in US America where they usually do, and here in the UK where we almost never use the real- but call them simply estate agents. Commented Sep 26, 2017 at 20:06

1 Answer 1


This sort of rule might be in some style manual for some specific type of publications somewhere -- but there is no language rule that says to alter the spelling of words just because they are in a "title." Keep in mind examples like "re-creation" being a word that is spelled differently than "recreation."

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