If you’re hoping it’ll be a pick-me-up to be picked up by a pickup, you surely must have a handle on your language. But just in case you’re slightly baffled and would rather go find a pick-up game you’d rather be a part of, let’s take a moment to pick through these possibilities. They’re always good to know if you’re in a pickle.
Should “pickup” be one word or two?
Here’s what you need to remember:
- “Pickup” (one word) is a noun, such as a truck, or an adjective, such as an impromptu round of something. You can ride in your pickup, or you can assemble a pickup band. You can tell your friend the plan for the package pickup, or you could have an impromptu round of pickup basketball.
- “Pick up” (two words) is the verb form. You can pick up the package when your pickup truck arrives at your destination.
- “Pick-up” (hyphenated) is a little glimpse of word evolution in action. When words change their forms, hyphenation is often stage one of their transformation. For example, “electronic mail” became “e-mail.” But as these words become more accepted, the hyphen is generally dropped, as is the case with “email” today. “Pick-up” can still be found with that hyphen in place, but it isn’t necessary anymore. Call it quaint, nostalgic (here’s looking at you, Pick-up Sticks), or verbose (if punctuation could be considered verbose), but when this “pick-up” form is used, remember it’s always as the noun or adjective form.
This has nothing to do with what Peter Piper picked; nor does it have anything to do with piccolos or Picasso. Should you be picky with your “pickup,” “pick up,” and “pick-up” usage? Perhaps. You can pick that for yourself.
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