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How is right?

I am reading britanica encyclopedia and came across these phrasal verb 'runoff'. It's a bit confused me because of writing. There are three different writing "runoff",  "run-off" and "run off". And when I first meet these and look through dictionary I found it in urban dictionary runoff and this meaning I don't wanna write here. Only after I found 'run-off' writing in oxford english dictionary with meaning conserning to presedential election. Is it matter word writing and how is right?


  • Hi there @Nail20. Hyphenation is a tricky one. Although standard spelling in English is fixed, the use of hyphenation is not. There is no concrete rule saying whether, for example, airstream, air stream, or air-stream is correct. All forms are found in use. However, there is a tendency to avoid hyphenation for noun compounds in both British and American English (e.g. airstream rather than air-stream). In US English there is an additional preference for the form to be one word, and in British English for the form to be two words.

    The form we give for a headword in the dictionary is usually the most common form, according to our evidence (in this case, run-off). This does not, however, imply that other forms are incorrect, and we may give other versions in the examples.

    I hope this has been helpful to you.

  • To add to what @joughtred said, I don't think there is any clear semantic distinction between the different forms and that, to a greater or lesser extent, they can be used to mean multiple different senses.

    The only think I can think of off the top of my head is that I don't think the phrasal verb is often, if ever, seen as an unbroken compound in UK English; whereas the noun senses are more fluid.

  • Thanks for comprehensive answer. I understood a little bit more about english)
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