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hyphens: nouns with gerunds

A gerund is a present participle used as a noun (e.g. making, solving). In a compound formed from a noun plus a gerund, the use of a hyphen depends on how the compound is being used in the sentence.

Used as a noun

When compounds formed from a noun plus a gerund function as nouns, they are not hyphenated.

Some noun-plus-gerund compounds are written as one word:

  • housekeeping
  • shipbuilding
  • sightseeing
  • cabinetmaking

Others are written as separate words:

  • decision making
  • power sharing
  • problem solving
  • deficit spending


  • foot-dragging

Used as an adjective

When a noun-plus-gerund compound that is normally written as two separate words is used as an adjective before a noun, it should be hyphenated:

  • the decision-making process
  • a power-sharing agreement
  • problem-solving techniques
  • a deficit-spending plan