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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Is the spelling breakeven, break even, or break-even?

It's very common where a word can be used as a compound word, two separate words, or with the two words hyphenated. Sometimes all three can be correct based on your usage, but at other times one or more may be a secondary spelling, or may be incorrect usage.

If we check breakeven, break even and break-even using Google, and limiting sites to sites ending in .au, the number of results returned are: 67,400, 156,000 and 161,000 respectively. The Australian Oxford Dictionary only lists break even. The Macquarie Dictionary lists both break even and break-even. Neither dictionary lists breakeven which indicates breakeven as a compound word may not be correct. Those using Microsoft Word should take care as Word accepts breakeven as a valid spelling.

The Macquarie Dictionary describes break-even as a noun derived from the phrasal verb break even, thus break even is a phrasal verb.  E.g. Usage as a phrasal verb. The company aims to break even by year end. Usage as a noun. The company may never reach break-even. In addition break-even can be used as an adjective. The company needs to know their break-even point.

Whether break-even or break even is used depends on your usage. At least in Australia, breakeven as a compound word, should most likely be considered to be an error.

Kelvin Eldridge

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