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My boss and I are debating something, and I told him that you would be the right people to ask.
Could you please tell us whether we should use “homecare” or “home care” in professional communications and company materials? Do the same rules apply to “healthcare” or “health care”?
We notice that both are used by companies, but the dictionary hyphenates. Your help would be very much appreciated.
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This is one of those words where usage varies, and there is probably no “correct” answer. You can’t really trust spell check on things like this. So when I run into this type of question, I sample the usage patterns by Googling each variation. Results:
home care = 51,100,000 hits
homecare = 17,400,000 hits
home-care = ? hits
Actually, Google ignores hyphens, even using advanced search, so there’s no way to tell. But I doubt that “home-care” is in wide use. Bottom line: go with “home care” as the 3:1 favorite.
I think we can do better than that. There are terms that are properly spelled as two words in one context but as one (or hyphenated) in another. I think both “home care” and “health care” can be among them. I've said this before, but watch closely, here:
When you want to set up your computer, you can get directions from the Setup section of the manual.
A backyard barbecue is held in your back yard.
An everyday event is one that happens every day.
First you have to print out your worksheet; then you can get the printout and show it to you coworker.
If you're a healthcare company, you provide health care. If you're a healthcare-service company, you provide healthcare services.
The rule (I think) is this: If the term modifies a noun—a setup chapter, a backyard barbecue, a silent-auction event, a home-care visitation—then it's one word or hyphenated. If it's not modifying something else—if you want to set up your computer out in your back yard at a silent auction during home care—it's two words.
The question of “healthcare” vs “health-care” is always up for grabs; we're a Germanic language and certain combinations of words, especially noun-noun pairs, are constantly growing closer together as they become more common. No one hyphenates “baseball” any more, but “infrared” is sometimes spelled “infra-red”; I alternate between “online” and “on-line” but never write “e-mail” though some others still do. No one has yet suggested “Presidentelect” or “motherinlaw”, but who knows whether that might happen someday?
I guess it comes down to just what service Amy's company provides. She didn't really say. Bob is correct in that it often comes down to whether the two words are being used as a single noun, in which case they usually (but not always) become a single non-hyphenated word.
Upon rereading her question, I see she used “healthcare” as an example. So if her company provides “care in the home” then “homecare” is probably the better choice.
But if her company provides “care of the home,” then I'd still go with “home care.”
Curiously, spell check (or should that be spellcheck?) flags “homecare” and suggests either “home care” or “home-care.” But like I said, you can't always trust spell check.
Ooh, good point (that about the health of the home vs the health of the occupant); I didn't think of that, and now that you mention it I have to agree that taking care of your home would be different. FWIW, I'd do it this way:
Care of the occupant: “If you can afford home care, I'd go with a local homecare provider.”
Care of the house: “Home care is important enough that I recommend a professional home-care service.”
In other words, I would use two words in both cases, but where they become a single modifier I'd use one word for the health version and hyphenate the other.
I agree about the spell checker (see how I get around that uncertainty?): I leave it on because there are a few words I'm uncertain of (doesn't “inoculate” have a double letter in it? apparently not), and of course it can help catch typos, but if it tries to correct my spelling of “traveled” or “coÃ¶perate” I don't hesitate to add a new word to its dictionary.
Bob, thank you for including backyard/back yard and everyday/every day. It bothers me when people have a barbecue in the backyard everyday. Unfortunately, M-W puts the use of backyard as a noun as early as 1659 (and backseat to 1780), so I'm guessing we lose on that one.
PS: No sideyard or frontyard, no frontseat. English is so consistent, so logical.
Amy: Can you provide insight into what you ended up using for the business name?
We are facing the same conundrum. Given the research, we are vying between “ABC HomeCare Inc.” instead of “ABC Home Care Inc.”. It appears most providers in my state are doing “ABC Home Care Inc.”, but we are wondering if we should use “ABC HomeCare Inc.” considering we are providers of “homecare”, and this will tranlate into the name. We are vying away from “ABC Homecare Inc.” since this is the actual company name.
Does anyone have any thoughts/suggestions? Thanks!
Yes, I have thoughts:
If, instead of “ABC Home Care, Inc.” (I would put in a comma) it were “ABC Plumbing Services, Inc.” would there be a problem? In both cases there are two nouns, one modifying or clarifying the other, essentially acting as an adjective: we provide care, specifically home care; we provide services, specifically plumbing services. Two words. To me, you are providers of home care (modified noun), but you are homecare (adjective) providers (ABC Homecare/HomeCare Providers, Inc.?).
On the other hand, you are establishing a brand, not writing a legal document. You can do as you please (ABC hOmkArink) as long as it projects the image you want. Neither grammar nor logic applies here, unless that’s your choice.