A small matter, this week, but one of great interest to me: to hyphenate or not to hyphenate? I have always written “money laundering” but there are those – among them, the Economist newspaper, whose style guide I trust in almost every other way – who prefer “money-laundering”. To my eye that looks ugly, but I have to admit that when it comes to its opposite, “anti money-laundering” (Economist) makes more immediate sense than “anti-money laundering” (me).
Being a graduate in English, a novelist and a big-time pedant, I am keen to get this right. The Oxford English Dictionary tells us: “Hyphens are used in many compound words to show that the component words have a combined meaning (e.g. a pick-me-up, mother-in-law, good-hearted) or that there is a relationship between the words that make up the compound: for example, rock-forming minerals are minerals that form rocks. But you don’t need to use them in every type of compound word.” Ha – so even if it does count as a compound word, it’s not compulsory to hyphenate.
My version is supported by the entry for “laundering” in the Collins English Dictionary, which actually gives “money laundering” as a non-hyphenated phrase. And this also reveals the exciting news that the word “laundering” is increasing in popularity and usage – which I assume shows a growing fascination with financial crime rather than with housework. So what do you think, dear readers: should we hyphenate or not?