Fulltime or Full-Time or Full Time?

The compound adjective “full time” is commonly used in phrases like “full-time job,” “full-time student,” or “full-time parent.” But should we hyphenate it as “full-time,” leave a space like “full time,” or close it up as one word “fulltime”? This is a question of style and convention that writers often grapple with.

When to Hyphenate “Full Time”

Full-time positions, full-time work, and studying full time are very common concepts. People may refer to writing full time, farming full time, tutoring full time, or looking after kids full time. The meaning is clear – it indicates something is done as a primary occupation, rather than an occasional side gig or hobby.

What Style Guides Say

When it comes to hyphenation and compound words, style guides don’t always agree. Two of the major American style guides have slightly different advice about “full time”:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style says to hyphenate “full-time” when it’s a compound adjective, for example: “She works a full-time job.”
  • AP Style, used by journalists, omits the hyphen: “She works a full time job.”

So Chicago favors the hyphen while AP Style leaves a space between “full” and “time.” What about closing it up as one word?

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One Word or Hyphenated Form

Using “fulltime” as one closed-up word is not considered standard usage. Style guides still favor the two-word or hyphenated version. Some guides reasoning is that phrases like “full-time job” function grammatically as compound adjectives made up of an adverb (“full”) modifying an adjective (“time”).

Leaving a hyphen in compound adjectives is also useful for clarity, signaling to the reader that two words work together to modify a noun. Compare “a full time discussion” vs. “a full-time job” – only the latter clearly conveys that “full” describes “time” and together they describe “job.”

While AP Style may leave out hyphens for short compound adjectives like “full time,” longer compound adjectives often retain hyphens for better readability:

“The policy covers long-term disability”
“She works the graveyard shift”

Hyphen Use Cases

We mainly see “full-time” hyphenated when it functions as a compound adjective describing a noun in a sentence, for example:

  • Mary works a full-time job
  • My son has a full-time nanny
  • She is employed in a full-time position

If the phrase “full time” stands alone or functions adverbially in a sentence, the hyphen can usually be omitted:

  • Mary works full time (adverbial use)
  • I work full time AND I’m a mom
  • Can you work full time while in school? (stands alone)

The hyphenated version is still most widely preferred, but dropping the hyphen in these cases is usually considered acceptable.

Consistency Matters

When using “full time” in your writing, the most important thing is to choose one convention and stick with it consistently throughout a piece. Don’t hyphenate it sometimes and then leave the space out other times. Consistent hyphenation, or lack thereof, prevents confusing your readers.

Of course, if you are writing for a publication or organization, any established house style should take precedence over your personal preference. Stick to their guidelines.

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The Gray Area of Style

Debates over hyphenation may seem trivial, but style guides exist to help eliminate ambiguity and improve clarity in writing. When lots of writers follow the same conventions, it brings uniformity and cohesion to publications and the written word overall.

That said, there is rarely one “right” or “wrong” way to handle stylistic gray areas like “full time” vs. “full-time.” Major style guides may disagree on the details. Over time, conventions can shift. In cases like this, the main thing is to pick a format and use it consistently within a given text.

And if you make an occasional exception or change your mind mid-document? Don’t stress about it. Perfectly polished writing is nice, but the ultimate goal is clear and effective communication.

Examples of Full-Time Responsibilities

To see “full-time” used in real-life context, here are some examples of full-time jobs, roles, and responsibilities people may have:

Full-Time Employment

Having a full-time job generally means working a minimum of 35-40 hours per week. Some common full-time positions include:

  • Office jobs – executive, manager, assistant, analyst, etc.
  • Medical jobs – doctor, nurse, technician
  • Service industry jobs – server, bartender, stylist
  • Manual labor jobs – construction, landscaping, sanitation

People employed full-time rely on their job as their sole or primary source of income. They structure the rest of their life responsibilities around their work schedule.

Full-Time Parenting

A full-time parent focuses on childcare as their main occupation, without supplemental income. They handle all tasks related to raising and caring for children like:

  • Feeding, bathing, dressing kids
  • Transporting to school/activities
  • Organizing playdates and events
  • Managing schedules and commitments
  • Maintaining household related to kids

A full-time parent may sacrifice personal income and career progression to dedicate themselves to parenting, especially in the early childhood years.

Full-Time Studying

Studying full time typically means enrolled as a full-time student, usually with 12 credits or more per semester for undergrads. Full-time students structure their whole schedule around academics without supplemental employment. Responsibilities may include:

  • Attending all classes and lectures
  • Completing assigned readings
  • Studying for tests and exams
  • Working on papers, projects, research
  • Participating in study groups
  • Managing academic-related stress

Full-time students carry a heavy workload and often have to sacrifice income or professional advancement while enrolled.

In these examples, “full-time” signals that the person focuses the bulk of their time and energy on one primary activity or obligation, whether that’s a job, parenting, or studying. The hyphenated “full-time” clearly modifies the noun it describes, illustrating the usefulness of the compound adjective formatting.