Reorder or Re-order? Understanding the Hyphen Rule in American English

Marcus Froland

In the world of writing and punctuation, many style guidelines come together to bring uniformity and coherence to the written word. One such rule in American English pertains to the use of hyphens. As you navigate the world of writing, you will frequently come across situations where you wonder, reorder or re-order?

Some of these dilemmas can lead to confusion and inconsistent writing styles, but fortunately, there is a straightforward answer to this particular query. This article will discuss the hyphenation rule of American English, with a focus on the word reorder and other words beginning with the “re-” prefix, and explain how to apply the correct punctuation.

Deciphering the ‘Re-‘ Prefix: To Hyphenate or Not?

When it comes to using the re- prefix in English grammar, many writers are often unsure whether to use a hyphen or not. The main rule to remember is that the re- prefix is usually directly attached to the base word, without requiring a hyphen, unless the word it precedes starts with an “e” or a “u” (and the “u” is not pronounced as “you”).

Key Rule: Use the prefix “re-” without a hyphen unless the following word starts with “e” or certain “u’s.”

Applying this rule makes it easier to determine when to use a hyphen and when to simply combine two words using the re- prefix. Below are some examples illustrating correct hyphenation for words with the re- prefix:

  1. Re-entry – The base word “entry” starts with an “e,” so a hyphen is used.
  2. Re-urge – As the base word “urge” starts with a “u,” the hyphen is necessary.
  3. Reorder – As the base word “order” starts with an “o,” no hyphen is needed.
  4. Reunite – The base word “unite” starts with a “u,” but the “u” is pronounced as “you,” so no hyphen.
  5. Restrain – The base word “strain” starts with an “s,” so the hyphen is not required.

As can be seen in these examples, following the key rule will consistently result in correct hyphenation with the re- prefix.

To better understand how the re- prefix affects word usage and hyphenation, consider the following table:

Word Hyphenation Status Justification
Re-entry Hyphenated Base word starts with an “e”
Re-urge Hyphenated Base word starts with a “u”
Reorder Not hyphenated Base word starts with an “o”
Reunite Not hyphenated Base word starts with a “u” (pronounced as “you”)
Restrain Not hyphenated Base word starts with an “s”

Being aware of the key rule for hyphenation with the re- prefix and familiarizing yourself with the variety of examples in this article will enable you to comfortably decide whether to hyphenate or not when using the re- prefix in your writing.

The Role of Style Guides in Hyphenation

Understanding the proper use of hyphens in our writing is essential, especially when it comes to prefix usage. The Associated Press (AP) Stylebook and The Chicago Manual of Style are two well-respected style guides that provide guidance on hyphenation rules, enabling consistency and precision in written materials. We will talk about their different views on hyphens and how they relate to writing with the’re-‘ prefix in this section.

AP Style: Clearing Up the Hyphenation Confusion

For those who frequently deal with content writing and journalism, the AP Stylebook serves as an invaluable resource. According to AP Style, the ‘re-‘ prefix should only use a hyphen if the subsequent word begins with ‘e’ or ‘u,’ and if the ‘u’ is not pronounced as ‘you.’ This illustrates the alignment of AP Style with general English language guidelines on hyphenation and prefix usage.

AP Style states: “Use a hyphen with the prefix ‘re-‘ only in cases where the hyphen is indispensable to understanding.”

Chicago Manual of Style’s Stance on Reordering Hyphens

Similar to AP Style, The Chicago Manual of Style provides a detailed explanation of hyphenation and the ‘re-‘ prefix. The manual indicates that the ‘re-‘ prefix should connect directly to the word it precedes, unless that word begins with ‘e’ or ‘u’ (with the same pronunciation exception).

Both style guides agree on the treatment of ‘reorder’ as not requiring a hyphen when following these rules. As an example:

  • Correct: reorder
  • Incorrect: re-order

Consistently referring to these style guides and implementing their rules will improve your writing as you navigate the complexities of grammar and hyphenation.

Words That Defy the Hyphen Rule

While most re- words follow the standard hyphenation rule, there exist some hyphen exceptions in the English language. These exceptions often arise due to nuances surrounding word meanings or the need to avoid potential confusion. Let’s take a look at some examples of these compound words that challenge the standard hyphen rule:

  1. Re-cover versus Recover: “Re-cover” means to cover something again, while “recover” refers to regaining something, such as one’s health. In this case, the hyphen is necessary to differentiate the two distinct meanings.
  2. Re-form versus Reform: “Re-form” implies forming something again, but “reform” means making improvements or changes to an existing system. As with the previous example, hyphenation helps avoid confusion between these different meanings.
  3. Re-creation versus Recreation: “Re-creation” implies creating something anew, whereas “recreation” refers to leisure activities. Here, the hyphen serves to distinguish the two separate concepts.

One way to avoid mistakes with these exceptions is by referring to reliable dictionaries, which can clarify the correct usage for each case. Furthermore, keeping in mind the various English language nuances can help you recognize when a hyphen may be necessary for clarity.

Remember: When in doubt, consult a reputable dictionary or style guide to ensure you’re using the proper hyphenation for compound words.

To help you better understand hyphen exceptions, let’s examine a table comparing some common compound words that defy the hyphen rule with their rule-abiding counterparts.

Exceptions Standard Hyphenation
Re-cover Reorder
Re-form Reunite
Re-creation Reestablish

While the majority of re- words abide by the hyphen rule according to the base word’s first letter, it’s essential to recognize and account for the occasional exceptions that can occur. By noting these English language subtleties, you’ll be well-equipped to use compound words accurately and effectively in your writing.

Common Mistakes with ‘Reorder’ and How to Avoid Them

One common mistake in English writing is the incorrect use of a hyphen in the word “reorder.” Often made by those who are unfamiliar with the hyphenation rule, this error stems from a lack of understanding with regards to the “re-” prefix. To ensure correct usage, it is important to remember that the word “order” starts with an “o,” and as such, “reorder” should always appear as one word without a hyphen.

To avoid the incorrect usage of a hyphen in “reorder,” remember that “order” starts with an “o,” and thus “reorder” always appears as one word without a hyphen.

Below, find a helpful list of grammar tips to keep in mind when using the “re-” prefix in your writing, helping you sidestep potential common mistakes:

  1. Do not hyphenate “re-” when the following word begins with a consonant. For example, reorder, reschedule, and reconnect are all written without hyphens.
  2. Only use a hyphen when the following word starts with an “e” or a “u” (not pronounced like “you”). Words like re-enter and re-engage require hyphens to prevent reading confusion.
  3. Remember that there are some exceptions to these rules to resolve confusion between similar words, like re-cover (to cover again) versus recover (to regain).

By keeping these grammar tips in mind, you can avoid common mistakes related to the word “reorder” and ensure correct usage of the “re-” prefix in your writing.

Reorder in American vs. British English: A Comparison

Although slight deviations may exist, the standard rules for using the re- prefix and hyphenation are predominantly consistent when comparing American and British English. In both cases, the preference is for the unhyphenated version of “reorder.” However, a minor increase in the usage of “re-order” can be observed in British English, though it is not officially recognized as the correct variant. Google Ngram Viewer data supports the preference for the unhyphenated form “reorder,” as seen in the following table.

English Variation Correct Form Incorrect Form
American English Reorder Re-order
British English Reorder Re-order (less common)

It is crucial to recognize these language differences and hyphenation differences when writing for various audiences and style guides. Adhering to the standard rules for using the re- prefix will not only ensure correctness in your writing but also make your content more accessible to readers from both American English and British English backgrounds.

“Reorder” without a hyphen is predominantly used in both American and British English, adhering to the standard rules for prefix usage and hyphenation.

Whether you are writing for an American or British audience, it is essential to maintain consistency in your hyphenation choices. By following the general rules governing the re- prefix, you can avoid common mistakes and ensure that your writing is accurate and easily understood by readers of either American English or British English.

Capitalization and Hyphenation in Titles: AP vs. Chicago Style

When it comes to title capitalization and hyphenation in writing, the two most popular style guides, AP Style and The Chicago Manual of Style, offer some guidance to ensure consistency and proper presentation. Let’s take a closer look at how these two writing resources address hyphenated words and capitalization rules in titles.

AP Style Capitalization Rules for Hyphenated Words

In accordance with AP Style guidelines, titles containing hyphenated words like “Re-Order” should have both elements capitalized. This practice aligns with the general rule of capitalizing most words in a title, with the exception of prepositions. By following this approach, you can ensure uniformity and adherence to grammar guidelines as recommended by the Associated Press.

The Chicago Manual of Style’s Guidelines for Title Hyphenation

In contrast, The Chicago Manual of Style suggests that titles with hyphenated words should also have both parts capitalized, maintaining consistency with the rest of the title’s capitalization. However, it is worth noting that APA Style advises treating hyphenated words like “Re-order” as a single word, with only the initial letter capitalized. By understanding and applying these stylistic guidelines, you can craft well-structured and professionally formatted titles in your writing.