I thought high school should have an hyphen in the middle when used as an adjective. Therefore:

I'm in high school (noun)

I'm a high-school student. (adjective)

But after a Google Book search, I realized that the non-hyphenated version is more common.

Why is this? And when should the hyphenated version be used?

  • 2
    If you're writing for someone (an editor or a professor), you will likely be given a style manual, which will advise you about hyphenation. Such rules are arbitrary, though rational, and have exceptions. Alas, whys are often unanswerable. Perhaps no one is worried that "high school student" means a school student who is high.
    – user105719
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 11:36
  • @user105719 I self-publish. So I have to decide my own style.
    – wyc
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 7:03
  • I suggest the Chicago Manual of Style.
    – user105719
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 10:26

1 Answer 1


Using hyphens in compound adjectives, e.g. a two-seater aircraft, a high-school student, a heavy-metal detector, is considered compulsory in British English, but US English is more lenient, and hyphenation is optional except where ambiguity would arise without a hyphen, or where it is desired to help the reader.

If you're unsure, use a hyphen.

Hyphens in compound adjectives

To hyphenate or not to hyphenate?

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