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no hyphen when used adverbially: you look half dead; hyphen when used adjectivally: a half-eaten sandwich, he got it half-price

half a dozen, half past

no apostrophe

plural haloes


do not use to refer to people with disabilities or learning difficulties

hanged, hung
the woman was found hanged; the sheet was hung out to dry

harass, harassment

one word, whether noun or adjective and whether you are talking about music, rubble, or pornography

adjective, hard line, hardliner nouns

not hairbrained

hare lip
never use; say cleft lip or cleft palate


Scientists use hazard to mean a potential for harm and risk to mean the actual probability of harm occurring; though headline writers may feel more at home with risk than hazard, the distinction is worth bearing in mind



can be used as a singular ('a large headquarters') or plural ('our headquarters are at Deane' HQ, however, takes the singular

Use active verbs where possible, particularly in news headlines: 'Editors publish new style guidelines' is much better than 'New style guidelines published'. Avoid tabloidese such as bid, brand, dub, and slam, and broadsheet cliches such as insist, signal, and target.

Also to be avoided are quotation marks, unless essential to signify a quote or for legal reasons. And resist the temptation to replace 'and' with a comma: 'University and council agree deal' not 'University, council agree deal'.

Be careful when making references to popular culture: 'Mrs Culpepper's lonely hearts club banned' works, because most people are familiar with Sgt Pepper's, but allusions to your favourite obscure 70s prog-rock album are likely to pass over most readers' heads.

Puns are fine – 'Where there's muck there's bras', about a farmer's wife who started a lingerie business, was voted headline of the year by Guardian staff – but do not overuse, or resort to dreary, overused puns such as 'flushed with success' (this story has got a plumber in it!).

one word; not headmaster, headmistress
but Association of Head Teachers



in metres with imperial conversion, eg 1.68 metres (5ft 7in)

hell, hades lc please

Heritage Lottery Fund

Her Majesty
the Queen is HM, never HRH

not hiccough

high flyer

high street
lc in retail spending stories: the recession is making an impact in the high street; capped only in proper name: I went shopping in Walthamstow High Street

Highways Agency

covering for the head and face worn by some Muslim women


plural hippopotamuses, not hippopotami

plural hippies

historian, historic
use 'a' not 'an', unless in a direct quote



HIV positive
no hyphen

hoard, horde
a hoard of treasure; a horde (or hordes) of tourists

Ho Chi Minh City
formerly Saigon

homebuyer, homeowner
one word

but home town

one word

uniform, of the same kind; homogenous (biology) having a common descent; the latter is often misused for the former


Hong Kong names
Like Taiwanese and Korean names, Hong Kong names are written in two parts with a hyphen, eg Tung Chee-hwa

plural honorariums

On news and comment pages: Phill Lloyd or Sir Bobby Charlton at first mention, thereafter Mr Lloyd, Sir Bobby, etc; in a big feature or news focus piece on a news page it may be appropriate to drop honorifics.

Use Dr at second mention for academic, medical and scientific doctors and doctors of divinity, not, for example, a politician who happens to have a PhD in history.

In other sections: surnames are acceptable after first mention, but again use your judgment: for parents of a child who has drowned, say, surnames only may be inappropriate


TM; say vacuum cleaner

sounds like a rather ugly combination of horrific and tremendous, but is in fact from the Latin for fearful; horrific is generally preferable, however

a not an

a not an


houseboat, housebreaker, housebuyer, householder, housekeeper
one word


humankind, humanity
use instead of mankind

you eat it; humus you put it on the garden

humour, humorist, humorous

hunky dory

Use one word wherever possible. Hyphens tend to clutter up text.
Inventions, ideas and new concepts often begin life as two words, then become hyphenated, before finally becoming accepted as one word. Why wait? 'Wire-less' and 'down-stairs' were once hyphenated.

Do use hyphens where not using one would be ambiguous, eg to distinguish 'black-cab drivers come under attack' from 'black cab-drivers come under attack'. Or hard to read: part-time and full-time not parttime and fulltime

Do not use after adverbs ending in -ly, eg politically naive, wholly owned, but hyphens are needed with short and common adverbs, eg ill-prepared report, hard-bitten hack, much-needed grammar lesson, well-established principle of style (note though that in the construction 'the principle of style is well established' there is no need to hyphenate).

Finally, do use hyphens to form compound adjectives, eg two-tonne vessel, three-year deal, 19th-century artist.


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