After featuring panties and Brangelina in his last two posts, Mr. Rewrite feels compelled to deal with a not-so-sexy subject, even at the expense of hits and his subscriber count. This might be a good time for less-motivated readers to head to TMZ.com.
First, let's note for the record that it's nonprofit, not non-profit. No hyphen. No, no, no. End of story.
There's no debate in Mr. Rewrite's reference books. Even the very forgiving Dictionary.com and the not-as-forgiving Merriam-Webster OnLine demand nonprofit. Bryan A. Garner (cue angelic chorus) says non-profit "is always ill-advised."
For those paid to know better, here's the most important thing to keep in mind: The Associated Press Stylebook requires nonprofit. That's why Mr. Rewrite is especially concerned that news organizations, most of which are bound by AP style, refer erroneously to non-profit/non-profits rather than nonprofit/nonprofits about a third of the time.
If you can live with blindly following usage guides -- that's Mr. Rewrite's policy -- this is a good time to head to TMZ.com. For those who can't, here's an attempt to explain the logic behind nonprofit sans hyphen ...
AP's entry on the prefix non- says you generally don't use a hyphen when forming a compound that can be understood if the word not could be used before the base word. You would use a hyphen before proper nouns and awkward combinations such as non-nuclear, neither of which is the case with nonprofit. AP's entry on prefixes says you generally don't hyphenate when combining a prefix with a word starting with a consonant.
Mr. Rewrite's ever-so-expensive Chicago Manual of Style says compounds formed with prefixes normally don't have hyphens. In the case of non-, it offers nonviolent and nonevent as examples.
After all this, gentle reader, Mr. Rewrite hopes you see that nonprofit is nonnegotiable.