This question has been answered · 8 replies
Is it true that most compounds with "non" are written with a hyphen in British English but are written as one word with no hyphen in American English? Or are things more complicated than this?
In AmE, 'non-' and most other common prefixes are used without the hyphen except in the case of new coinages and words that look confusing without it, like 'non-Hodgkin's lymphoma'. I would be surprised if the rule were different in BrE.
I'm afraid that in British English the rule *is* different. We do indeed tend to use hyphens after the prefix "non-" (which avoids the possibility of mispronouncing words such as "nonnative" ["non-native" in BrE]).
As regards other prefixes, "pre-" and "co-" still sometimes take a hyphen (particularly where the second part of the word starts with a vowel and could lead to an erroneous pronunciation, e.g. pre-empt, co-opted). According to the Oxford English Dictionary, "micro-organism" is also the preferred form, for similar reasons.
There seems to be a split on this as some ISO docs use no hyphen and then some American English use the hyphen. One thing is certain: Using non with a space, e.g. non conformance, is NOT the way to write the word!
The best thing to do is consult a dictionary first. It will tell you if it's a closed compound (no space, no hyphen).
But what about "non state parties" (i.e. the states which are not parties to a certain treaty) and "non state parties" (i.e. the parties which are not states, such as organisations etc) can the hypen be of any use in making the difference clearer?
It would seem to me that if the state is not party to the treaty, it would be "non-party states" or "state non-parties." If you call those states "non state parties" (no matter what you do with hyphens), you are getting the modifiers all mixed up. Put modifiers next to that which they modify, and go from there (non modifies party here, so you put those together). If you mean to refer to parties that are not states, then the "non" modifies "state," and you end up with "non-state parties."
I agree with Mister Micawber and would like to add another "rule" that I have seen mentioned, i.e., that a hyphen is used when the main word is capitalized, as in non-American rather than nonAmerican. Whether this is considered absolutely correct or not, I don't know, but it seems nothing is "absolutely" correct these days. :-)
This implies, of course, that a noncaptitalized word would not require a hyphen after non.
AnonymousThis implies, of course, that a noncaptitalized word would not require a hyphen after non. This was discussed elsewhere on the internet a few years ago. When I mentioned that some dictionaries perferred nonnative to non-native, I got a condescending reply from a Briton that dictionaries could be wrong and my views only proved that I was a non-native!
PS: I couldn't care less which way to write the word is more correct.