Q&A: Thank you, thankyou, thank-you!

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Each week here at the Australian Writers’ Centre, we dissect and discuss, contort and retort, ask and gasp at the English language and all its rules, regulations and ridiculousness. It’s a celebration of language, masquerading as a passive-aggressive whinge about words and weirdness. This week, it’s all about thanking you…

Q: Hi AWC, I’d like to say thank you.
A: You’re welcome. For what?
Q: And I’d also like to say thankyou. Or even thank-you.
A: Oh, we get it. You want to know which version to use. Not actually thanking us at all.
Q: Of course not – why would I be thanking you? You haven’t done anything yet.
A: Fair point.
Q: So I’m thinking that it seems better as two words. All-as-one “thankyou” just looks funny and a hyphen seems pedantic.
A: If we applied the “looks funny” and “pedantic” rule to the English language, we might not be left with many words!
Q: Yes, true.
A: So, you may be shocked to discover that you CAN have more than just one version, in certain contexts. The two-worded “thank you” should be always used for the common expression. For example: “Thank you for this fine Secret Santa gift. I shall treasure it always.”
Q: Said no one ever.
A: Haha. Anyway, it should always be two words when you are expressing gratitude.
Q: So what about the single word and hyphen versions then?
A: This is what we recommend, and it’s true that not everyone follows this style. For the noun – the act of expressing thanks, use the one word “thankyou”. It is also to be used as an adjective to modify a noun – i.e. “a thankyou card”.
Q: More examples?
A: Noun: “The recipient gave a heartfelt thankyou for the Secret Santa gift, despite not really liking it at all.” (But note that you’d also write that “the recipient said thank you for the gift”.)
For the adjective: “After her wedding, she spent the next six months writing thankyou letters.”
Q: Hang on, I just tried typing this and I get a red squiggly line like it should be two words. Maybe I should use “thank-you” instead?
A: It’s a style thing – we (and the Fairfax Style Guide) recommend the one word option, because hyphenating for the sake of it seems wrong.
Q: Couldn’t-agree-more-on-that-one.
A: Other dictionaries of the world may differ. Many list the hyphenated version first and then the single-word form, although in the US the Merriam-Webster dictionary lists only the hyphen form.
Q: Oh okay. So dictionaries prefer the hyphens.
A: It would appear so. But remember, just as important is knowing that it’s always two words when you say “thank you” to thank someone. It’s only when we get to the noun and adjectives where opinion is divided between “thankyou” and “thank-you”.
Q: And you recommend “thankyou”.
A: We do.
Q: Well, thank you for that explanation. And I want to say a big thankyou for all your words of wordy wisdom throughout the year.
A: Our pleasure, and perfect usage by the way!