Policy{hyphen, space, nothing}making

One minor hiccough regarding the thesis has been cropping up continuously of late. One of my key terms has a trio of possible forms, each of which has a certain appeal and a certain problem:

  1. Policy making
  2. Policy-making
  3. Policymaking

I think all three are acceptable English, and my preference vacillates between the three based on the context in which the word is used. When it is being used as the subject of a sentence, the two word version seems more natural: “Consideration of framing issues is important for those involved in policy making.” When it is modifying a noun, either the conglomerated or hyphenated version seems better: “The policymaking process is fraught with uncertainties.”

I should, however, choose a single form to use in the entire thesis, and do so before I need to wade through too many tens of thousands of words and footnotes to set the standard. Preferences, anyone?

I am working on developing presentation standards for the whole thesis. I am told Oxford has some rules of its own, but I am not sure where to find them.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

10 thoughts on “Policy{hyphen, space, nothing}making”

  1. Another quick note on the use of language. There has been a progression in the general terminology used by people in the M.Phil program to refer to the thesis. ‘My thesis’ became ‘the thesis’ as it began to loom with a singular largeness only properly captured by the definite article. From there, we became sufficiently bitter and embroiled in British English to start calling it ‘the bloody thesis.’

  2. If you use the phrase a lot, don’t use two words every time – go with 2 or 3 for strategic reasons…

  3. I am going to take the compromise position: policy-making in all cases. Microsoft Word counts it as a single word, and it serves decently in the two different contexts identified above.

    I am also going with policy-makers, decision-makers, and decision-making.

  4. The UN uses policy-making, to make it clear what is being made.

    According to our style guide, hyphens are used for:
    1. prefixes (non-, ex-, self- etc)
    2. when the next word starts with a vowel (e.g. semi-intensive rather than semiintensive);
    3. to distinguish between words – e.g. re-count as opposed to recount a tale…;
    4. when the next word begins with a capital letter e.g. sub-Saharan, inter-American.
    5. to avoid confusion in compound adjectival expressions e.g. light-blue coat, man-eating tiger

    This can change the sense – e.g. thirty-odd participants, compared to thirty odd participants!

    No hyphen for:
    1. adverbs e.g. readily available data;
    2. Expressions coming from a proper name – the New York government administration, Latin American telecom operators;
    3. Habit!! per diem allowance, versus laissez-faire policy.

    You’ve chosen the one we use, anyway!

  5. Pippa,

    Interesting to know. I tend to devise my own conventions for each project. For something as considerable and important as the thesis, it seems to be worth the effort.

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