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half of. The preposition of is not necessary in this usage: half the time. But half of the time is not wrong.

half-mast, half-staff. On ships and at naval stations ashore, flags are flown at half-mast. At King County facilities and elsewhere ashore, flags are flown at half-staff.

handicapped See disabled.

handheld (n.), hand-held (adj.).

hand-washing. Two words, hyphenated.

hangar, hanger. A hangar is a building, especially for housing and repairing aircraft. A hanger is used for clothes.

hanged, hung. Pictures, coats and sometimes juries are hung. Use hanged when referring to executions or suicides.

harass, harassment. Commonly misspelled. One r and two s's.

hardly. See can't hardly.

has no. Wordy. Simplify. Try replacing with lacks.

have an effect on. Wordy. Simplify with a form of the word affect. See affect, effect.

headlines, headings. Headlines are like sentences, with a subject and a verb: What is compost? Turn over a new leaf [Subject, You, implied]. Headings are like typical book or "composition" titles, without a subject and a verb: The value of compost. For consistency, choose either a headline style or a heading style when possible.

"Down-style" capitalization is preferrred for both headlines and headings; that is, capitalize only proper nouns and the first word. Capitalize headings and headings consistently within a document, whether you use headlines or headings or both.

To improve readability, avoid capitalizing all the letters in more than one or two words in headlines and headings. For emphasis, other typographical uses may be more effective than capitalizing every word: a different typeface, italics, color, boldfacing, larger type. See composition titles. Also see Informative headings under Creating an Enticing Design in the King County Plain Language Writing Guide.

In headlines, state or imply a complete sentence in the present tense. Avoid using passive voice. Omit most "helping" and "to be" verbs: Road improvements planned for 140th Avenue Southeast instead of Road improvements are planned for 140th Avenue Southeast. Eliminate articles (a, an, the): Solid Waste schedules open house on proposed changes instead of Solid Waste has scheduled an open house on the proposed service changes. Infinitive is preferred to future tense: County Council to consider budget recommendation instead of The County Council will consider the budget recommendation. In headlines with more than one line, avoid separating verbs of more than one word, modifiers from the words they modify and prepositions from the phrases they introduce.

Figures may be used for numbers in headlines. If the meaning is clear, abbreviations may be used in headlines and headings. See abbreviations and acronyms, capitalization, numbers.

Punctuate headlines like sentences. Some exceptions: Commas may substitute for the word and. Use semicolons instead of periods to show sentence breaks within the headline. But put no period after the headline. Use single quotation marks instead of double quotation marks. In attribution, colons may substitute for said after the speaker's name (before a statement), and dashes may substitute for said before the speaker's name (after a statement). Don't hyphenate words in headlines and headings.

head-on (adj., adv.).

headquarters. May take a singular or a plural verb. Do not use headquarter as a verb.

health care. Two words.

health department. Use the full name, Public Health--Seattle & King County, on first reference.

Healthy IncentivesSM, KingCareSM. To help protect the registered names of King County government's health benefits and Health Reform Initiative, use the service mark symbol when first using the names in a King County document and when using them again in a new chapter or later section of a King County document. When possible, use the commands in your word-processing and page-design software to create the smaller superscript symbol. If your software doesn't provide the symbol or superscripted text, follow the county names with SM in parentheses: Healthy Incentives(SM), KingCare(SM). See service mark, trademark.

height. Not heighth. See dimensions.


henceforth. Overstated and formal. Simplify. Try from now on.

he or she, he/she. In avoiding the outdated use of the generic he, he or she is much preferred over he/she, as are his or hers over his/hers and him or her over him/her. Of course, the pronoun order can be reversed: she or he, hers or his, her or him. To avoid overuse of he or she and its other forms, use a plural construction: All participants must supply their own tools instead of Each participant must supply his or her own tools. See his, his/her entry below.

her. Do not use this pronoun to refer to nations or ships, except in quotations. Use it instead. See his, his/her, sex, sexism.

hi-fi. Lowercase, hyphenated.

high-. Hyphenate compound adjectives using high- before a noun: high-class apartment, high-definition TV, high-fidelity system, high-impact development, high-priority decision, high-rise apartment. See low-.

highlighting. See boldface and underlining. Also see Highlighting under Creating an Enticing Design in the King County Plain Language Writing Guide.

high-occupancy. Buses, carpools and vanpools are high-occupancy vehicles. They can travel in high-occupancy-vehicle lanes.

high-occupancy-vehicle lane. Spell out (lowercase) on first reference. HOV lane is acceptable on second reference. Bus and carpool lane is also acceptable. If needed for limited space in charts, tables and maps, HOV acceptable if the meaning is clear.

high-rise (adj. and n.). Include hyphen.

high-tech, high tech. As an adjective, use high-tech or high-technology. As a noun, use high tech or high technology. It's never hi-tech or hi tech.

highway designations. For highways identified by number, spell out and capitalize on first reference: Highway 99, U.S. Route 2, Interstate 5, State Route 520. On second reference (and for limited space in maps, charts and tables), interstates and state routes may be abbreviated. Capitalize and use a hyphen: I-405, I-5, SR-520. Don't abbreviate Highway 99, except for limited space in maps, charts and tables: Hwy 99. See correspondence.

hillside. One word.

his, his/her. Avoid using the pronoun his in generic references or the awkward construction his/her. Instead, recast the sentence if possible. Change: A truck driver should always try to keep his/her composure. To: Truck drivers should always try to keep their composure. See he or she, he/she entry above.

Hispanic, Latino. Both terms refer to a person of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central and South American or other Spanish culture or origin. Some people and style guides prefer Hispanic. Especially on the West Coast, some people prefer Latino. Still others use the two terms interchangeably or prefer a term noting national origin, such as Puerto Rican, Cuban or Mexican American. Unless requested, avoid using Chicano to refer specifically to Mexican Americans. Don't use Spanish-speaking as a synonym for Hispanic, Latino or Chicano. When in doubt about how to refer to a person's race or cultural or ethnic identity, ask the person in question what is preferred. See capitalization, race.

historic, historical, history. Use historic for places, things and events of great significance, that stand out in history. Any occurrence in the past is a historical event. Past history is redundant. Also, because the consonant h is typically sounded in these words, the article a comes before them, not an. See a, an.

hit-and-run (n. and adj.). The accident was a hit-and-run. The truck was struck by a hit-and-run driver.

HIV. It's human immunodeficiency virus, so HIV virus is redundant. See AIDS.

holidays, holy days. Capitalize all holidays and holy days: Chinese [or Lunar] New Year, Christmas, Columbus Day, Easter, Groundhog Day, Halloween, Hanukkah, Independence Day, Labor Day, Memorial Day, St. Patrick's Day, Thanksgiving, Valentine's Day, Year of the [Rat], etc. Punctuate these holidays as follows: New Year's Day, Martin Luther King Jr. Day (no commas before and after Jr.), Washington's Birthday, Presidents Day (no apostrophe), and Veterans Day (no apostrophe). See datesIndependence Day.

In promotional material, announcements and news releases that publicize events occurring in December and January, use the holiday season, a holiday party or a similar phrase. Christmas is a Christian celebration not recognized by all religious beliefs. Government agencies cannot promote religious practice. See religious affiliation.

hold a meeting. Wordy. Replace with meet. Change: The committee will hold a meeting Nov. 5. To: The committee will meet Nov. 5.

home buyer, home buying. Two words when used as nouns. Hyphenate home-buying when used as a verb or adjective.

home, house. Not interchangeable, or as the saying goes: "A house is not a home." House is more precise when referring to a type of building in which people live, while home is more precise when referring to households or places of residence--which can include apartments, trailers, condominiums and bridge underpasses.

home page. Two words. It's the "front" page or main page of a website; it's not synonymous with Web page or website. See Internet, intranet, online, World Wide Web.

homosexual. See gay, lesbian; sex, sexism.

hopefully. Hopefully is an adverb that means "hopeful or with hope or in a hopeful manner" and describes how the subject of a sentence feels: Hopefully, the dog sat by the dinner table. (The dog is hopeful.) Hopefully, Carlos e-mailed his request for a vacation. (Carlos is hopeful.) Do not use it to mean "it is hoped, let us hope, we hope" or "I hope." More than likely, you mean I hope or we hope instead: We hope she will edit the copy properly. Not: Hopefully, she will edit the copy properly.

hors d'oeuvre. Commonly misspelled.

horsepower. Spell out on first reference. It may be abbreviated hp on later references and in charts and tables.

host, hosted. Alternative verbs include give, hold or entertained.

hotline. One word.

hours. See time.

house. See home, house.

HOV lanes. See high-occupancy-vehicle lanes.

however. To avoid reader confusion, avoid starting a sentence with however when the meaning is "nevertheless." Instead, begin the sentence with but, or pause early in the sentence and insert however between commas: The buses, however, carried more people than they did last year. If you do use however to mean "nevertheless" at the beginning a sentence, always follow it with a comma: However, an alternative solution might be better. When using however to mean "in whatever way" or "to whatever extent", do not follow it with a comma at the beginning of a sentence: However you advise him, he probably will do as he thinks best. See and, but, comma, nevertheless.

HTML. Acronym for hypertext markup language. Spell out on first reference. Lowercase html and htm in Web addresses. See World Wide Web.

HTTP. Acronym for hypertext transfer protocol. Lowercase in Web addresses. See World Wide Web.

hung. See hanged, hung.

hygiene. Commonly misspelled.

hyphen (-). Hyphens link words together. Use a hyphen to form a single idea from two or more words: She recovered her health. She re-covered the torn seat. He is a small-business man. He is a foreign-car dealer. Unclear: He is a small businessman. He is a foreign car dealer. Also see guidelines at composition titles, compound words, race, telephone numbers.

Do not hyphenate most compound nouns--two or more words that function together as a noun: Pilot testing is scheduled to begin in May. But consult this style manual or your dictionary for preferred or commonly accepted terms: president-elect, sister-in-law, good-for-nothing.

Compound adjectives, compound modifiers:

  • To avoid ambiguity, consider inserting hyphens to link consecutive words in compound adjectives (compound modifiers) before nouns. If you can insert and between the modifying words before a noun and make sense of the new construction, you do not have a compound adjective: And would make sense in a sunny, warm day; sunny, warm is not a compound modifier. But and would not work in a well-rounded employee; well-rounded is a compound modifier.
  • If two or more consecutive words make sense only when understood together as a single idea modifying a noun that follows, hyphenate that compound adjective. Examples: a well-prepared plan, special-interest money, two-zone system, credit-card application, high-frequency sounds, first-class stamp, minimum-height requirement, used-record store, 250-square-mile area, 5-ton truck, short-term solution, peak-hour fare, little-known man, better-qualified woman, long-range plan, know-it-all attitude, pilot-testing schedule.
  • Leave out hyphens in compound modifiers when no reader confusion would result from their omission--or if the modifying words are commonly considered as a unit: post office box, high school classes, real estate agent. If necessary, rewrite sentences to avoid stringing together a long, potentially confusing series of modifying adverbs and adjectives before nouns.
  • When a number and a noun form a compound modifier before a noun, use a singular noun in the phrase and hyphenate the phrase. Drop the hyphens and use plural nouns in other uses: The room measured 5 by 8 feet, but a 5-by-8-foot room. The building has 2,000 square feet of usable space, but a 2,000-square-foot building. The container held 12 gallons, but a 12-gallon container. The type size is 24 points, but 24-point type. Her shift lasted nine hours, but a nine-hour shift. He was on vacation for two weeks, but a two-week vacation. See dimensions, distances, numbers, plurals.
  • Hyphens are unnecessary after the adverb very and after all adverbs that end in ly: a very good time, an easily remembered rule, randomly selected addresses. See comma, very.
  • Do not hyphenate most compound modifiers if they occur after the noun being modified, even if hyphenating them before the noun: The plan was well prepared. The man was little known. The woman was better qualified. His boat is 20 feet long, but He has a 20-foot-long boat.
  • Here's the form for suspensive hyphenation: The agenda included a 10- to 15-minute period for questions.

Hyphenate co- when forming nouns, adjectives or verbs that show occupation or status: co-pilot, co-chairman, co-worker. See prefixes. and suffixes. and separate entries for the most frequently used prefixes and suffixes.

A hyphen is not a dash. For example, this phone number contains hyphens, not dashes: 206-321-7654. And the mail stop KSC-NR-0505 has hyphens, not dashes. See dash. for preferred punctuation between phrases and numbers, times, dates and other uses that show range, such as 1987-88, $20-40, the Seattle-Spokane train. Also see between ..., from ... to, ranges.

Avoid dividing words with a hyphen at the end of a line, especially in unjustified text. Doing so can hinder readability. If hyphenating a word is necessary to eliminate large gaps at the end of an adjacent line or between words, here are some guidelines to reduce reader confusion:

  • Divide words only between syllables, but don't add a hyphen to a word or phrase that already contains a hyphen, such as decision-maker or re-election. Instead, break the word or phrase at the existing hyphen.
  • Don't end more than two consecutive lines with hyphens.
  • Don't hyphenate a word at the end of a line unless you can leave a syllable of at least three characters on both the first and second lines. Avoid dividing words with fewer than six letters.
  • Don't divide the last word in a line when the second part of the word would be the only "word" on the second line.
  • Don't hyphenate abbreviations, contractions, numbers and words in headlines and headings.
  • Avoid hyphenating proper nouns.
  • Don't hyphenate words that jump from one page to another page.
  • Avoid hyphenating words that jump from one column to another column or that jump over a graphic image or photo.

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