Compound words may be written as 

  • two separate words (e.g., health care), 
  • one hyphenated word (e.g., self-esteem), or 
  • one solid word (e.g., caregiver).

In general, follow the hyphenation shown in the Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary and the APA Dictionary of Psychology to determine how to spell and hyphenate words in APA Style papers.

Hyphenation is covered in Section 6.12 of the APA Publication Manual, Seventh Edition

Hyphens in Temporary Compound Words

If a compound word does not appear in the dictionary, it is called a temporary compound.

The most important principle for writing temporary compounds is to use hyphens in them to prevent misreading. For example, if a compound adjective appears before a noun, use a hyphen (e.g., decision-making behavior, high-anxiety group). However, if the compound adjective appears after the noun, a hyphen is usually unnecessary (e.g., behavior related to decision making, group with high anxiety).

The Publication Manual contains additional guidance on when to use hyphens (e.g., in conjunction with capitalized base words or numerals).

Hyphens With Prefixes and Suffixes

Words with prefixes and suffixes are usually written without a hyphen in APA Style. Some common examples are presented next. The Publication Manual contains additional prefixes and suffixes and corresponding examples that follow the same pattern as well as a handful of exceptions.

Prefix Example
anti  antisocial
co covariate
non nonsignificant
over overqualified
pre preexisting
pro prosocial
post postgraduate
re reevaluate
un unbiased
under underappreciated