Grammar Tip – Hyphens with Adjectives

Todd’s question: “Would you hyphenate ‘cost effective’ in the following sentence? ‘He has designed cost effective training and consulting programs.’”

BizWritingTip response: Words change according to their use in sentences. Normally, you would consider the word “cost” as a noun or as a verb.

In the sentence provided, “cost” is now serving as an adjective – along with the word “effective” – to describe the type of “training.” I would, therefore, place a hyphen between “cost” and “effective” turning them into one word. After all, it is not “cost training” nor “effective training.” It is “cost-effective training.”

Correct: He has designed cost-effective training and consulting programs.

  • Pamela Hillis

    I often see “onsite” used as one word. Doesn’t guidance similar to “cost effective” apply to “on site?” If one leaves a report on site, shouldn’t it be two words? If one has an “on-site” meeting, shouldn’t it be hyphenated? Is “onsite” ever one word?