I'm confident in my abilities regarding where to place and not place hyphens except in one area: when you have a phrase that consists of a noun and a noun that consists of a verb with -er at the end, does that get a hyphen?

For instance, if I'm talking about a scheme that will give you twice as much money as you had before, is that a "money doubler" or is it a "money-doubler"? Some instances of this sort of phrase just turn it into one word like "heartbreaker" or "homemaker."

I have no idea what to call this, so I don't know what to Google. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

  • 1
    Hyphenation, especially in such cases, is more of a matter of disambiguation and readability, than one of grammar. Certain phrases on regular use may become idiomatic, gain a hyphen to bind together, and eventually even merge into a single word. Home maker, home-maker and homemaker are all in use.
    – Kris
    Dec 18, 2019 at 8:26

1 Answer 1


There is a lot of fluidity to compound words. Though you will see cry-baby and low-life and to-day seldom today, they used to be common. (Not all words go this way -- we used to get off our hobby-horse and eat some ice-cream, but these are largely separated by a space to-day.)

I would consider the no-space, no-hyphen forms like homemaker and chickpea to be reserved for the most familiar terms which happen case-by-case.

I don't think there is a general rule. The New York Times Manual of Style lists dozens upon dozens of specific word combinations so that their editors know how to speak of airfields, air-conditioners, and air rifles.

  • Can this help the OP - grammarbook.com/punctuation/hyphens.asp
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 18, 2019 at 6:32
  • Do people use 'to-day'?
    – Ram Pillai
    Dec 18, 2019 at 12:28
  • 1
    @RamPillai "to-day" used to be the standard way of writing it, but it's extremely uncommon now.
    – Chris H
    Dec 18, 2019 at 13:37
  • @RamPillai Actually, quite a bit: Rules 2a and 2b at the beginning. Specifically, I
    – John Doe
    Dec 18, 2019 at 17:03

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