Follow-up, Follow up, or Followup: What’s the Difference?

Has a medical professional ever recommended that you come back in for a follow-up? Has a supervisor or other authority figure at your job ever asked you to follow up with someone to ensure that progress is being made on a certain task or project?

Follow-up and follow up are pronounced identically, but they are used as different parts of speech. Since they are the same, give or take a hyphen, many writers get these terms confused. This post will be an explanation of the proper contexts for each version of this word, so that you will know whether follow-up or follow up is more appropriate for your own writing.

What is the Difference Between Follow-Up and Follow Up?

In this article, I will compare follow-up vs. follow up. I will use each spelling in at least one example sentence to demonstrate its proper context.

I will also outline a simple memory tool that will make it easy to remember which word to use in which situation.

When to Use Follow-up

followup versus follow upWhat does follow-up mean? Follow-up is sometimes used as a noun, and sometimes as an adjective.

As a noun, follow-up means an appointment after the first.

As an adjective, follow-up describes such an engagement.

For example,

  • The executive scheduled a follow-up meeting to monitor the progress of the new initiative.
  • At the follow-up, the finance officer reported profit margins that were below projections.
  • Tina decided that a follow-up appointment with her client would be necessary to determine the efficacy of the treatment.
  • The chances for a follow-up increase in March stood at 13.1%, compared with 12.8% a day ago. –The Wall Street Journal

Sometimes, writers omit the hyphen, to form followup. Followup is not yet an accepted spelling, though it has become more common since roughly the 1970s. For now, avoid this spelling in academic and professional writing.

When to Use Follow Up

Define follow up define followup defineWhat does follow up mean? When this phrase is divided into two separate words, it is a verb. To follow up on something means to revisit it or to review it.

For example,

  • “Angie, follow up with Dr. Hawkins to make sure he knows about his 3:30 appointment,” Donna said.
  • The site coordinator will follow up with affected staff members to ensure that they understand their new duties.
  • Teachers should follow up with their students to gauge fluency levels.
  • They would follow up with legislation similar to a bill vetoed in January, which would have repealed the tax penalties for people who go without insurance and the penalties for larger employers who fail to offer coverage. –The New York Times

Without a hyphen, follow up functions strictly as a verb.

Trick to Remember the Difference

Definition of follow up definition of followup definitionHere is a helpful trick to remember follow up vs. follow-up in their various functions in the English sentence.

Follow-up means an appointment after the initial one as a noun; as an adjective, it describes such an appointment. The verb phrase follow up means to revisit or to review. The compound word followup is considered a spelling error.

To remember that follow up is a verb, you can look at the meanings of the individual words. Since follow is itself a verb, meaning to come after, you can remember that the phrase follow up functions as a verb in sentences.

Summary

Is it follow-up or follow up? While all of these spelling variations sound the same when spoken, they have different functions within the sentence.

  • In its hyphenated form, follow-up is a noun or an adjective.
  • When the hyphen is replaced with a space, follow up becomes a verb.
  • This term should not be spelled as one word, To do so would be a spelling error.

Since follow forms part of the phrase follow up and is itself a verb, you can remember to reserve follow up for situations when you are using this term as a verb.

If you need additional guidance, or aren’t sure whether to choose follow up or follow-up, you can always check this article for a quick refresher.