3D or 3-D? (AP, APA, and Chicago Style)

Different style guides tend to have different rules when hyphenating certain words and abbreviations. This article will explore the different rules associated with hyphenating 3D. There are a few different options, so it would help to know more about them.

3D or 3-D?

“3D” is the most recognized form. It’s commonly seen in AP and APA Style, where the hyphen is dropped in favour of a simplistic, one-word approach. “3-D” is hyphenated according to The Chicago Manual of Style. AP Style also allows for a hyphen to be present in the word.

3d or 3 d

Whether hyphenated or not, “3D” always means the same thing. It’s an abbreviation of “three-dimensional.” It’s common for people to use it when they don’t want to use the full phrase.

Is 3D One Word?

“3D” is very commonly written as one word. You should write it like this because the hyphen doesn’t help the abbreviation to make more sense.

“3D” is an abbreviation of “3-dimensional.” However, according to English style guides like AP Style and APA Style, you should drop the hyphen when abbreviating “3D.”

Here are a few examples to show you how to use “3D” as one word:

  1. The 3D printer isn’t able to output things at the rate you’re asking for. We don’t make them that good just yet.
  2. She told me all about the 3D pictures. I wish there was some way for us to get them sorted so we could hand them out.
  3. I’m not watching another 3D movie anytime soon. My head was throbbing after putting those glasses on for a few hours.
  4. What’s the point in having a 3D model if you aren’t doing anything with it? Are you trying to teach us how to create the model?
  5. She wanted you to see the 3D draft. It would have helped you understand more about what you’re supposed to do next.

Is 3-D Hyphenated?

You may keep the hyphen when abbreviating “3-dimensional,” but only in certain styles.

The Chicago Manual of Style allows you to hyphenate “3-D,” keeping it in line with the longer form of the abbreviation.

Since “3-dimensional” is hyphenated, it makes sense to keep the hyphen in the abbreviation. That’s why The Chicago Manual of Style uses this form.

It’s also why AP Style allows both the hyphenated and unhyphenated forms to appear in writing. You can choose from either form when following AP Style rules.

These examples demonstrate how to use “3-D” in a sentence as a hyphenated word:

  1. It’s a 3-D model, and it would be great if you could look at it. I’m worried some issues need to be sorted out.
  2. She showed me the 3-D visualization of the building. It was truly remarkable, and I hope it gets built soon.
  3. If you can’t do this in 3-D, then I don’t want to be involved in the project. It seems like a giant waste of time.
  4. What’s all the 3-D stuff going to help us with? Shouldn’t we get most of this done in 2-D first?
  5. I’m not going to be able to watch it in 3-D. The last time I tried that, I got a horrible headache after the show.

Is 3 D Two Words?

While the hyphenated and unhyphenated forms are correct, you should never split “3D” into two words.

You cannot remove the connection between 3 and D because it removes the meaning of “3-dimensional.” It is often grouped because it is an adjective modifying a noun. Removing the grouping removes the modification, making “3 D” useless when it appears.

Perhaps you should refer to these examples to show you what the correct form is:

  • Correct: You should have tried it with a 3D printer. I think you would have had much better results doing it like that.
  • Incorrect: It’s not about the 3 D movies anymore. Nobody wants to watch anything that jumps away from the screen.
  • Correct: 3-D or not, I’m not impressed with your creation. I think it would have been better if you put more heart into it.
  • Incorrect: She showed me the 3 D development. I was certain there was supposed to be more to it.

Is 3D Capitalized?

There is no clear distinction between the capitalized form “3D” and the uncapitalized “3d.” Most style guides do not state whether you need to capitalize the abbreviation.

“3D” tends to be the most popular choice, making it the one you should stick to in your writing. This is commonly recognized amongst most style guides, even if they don’t outright express whether the “D” should be capitalized.

The “D” is often kept capitalized because it fits in better with the number “3.” Numbers are much larger than lowercase letters in writing, so the uppercase “D” helps to keep it more uniform.

Nevertheless, here are some examples showing you that both the capitalized and uncapitalized versions are correct:

  1. I want to watch this in 3D because I think it’ll be much more fun. Do you want to come and watch it too?
  2. I think she said something about it being in 3d. There’s so much left to see through a different lens.
  3. If you could go to the 3D exhibition, what would you do about it? I think it would be a truly eye-opening experience.
  4. This 3d picture show is fascinating. I haven’t seen something like this in a long time. Do you like it?
  5. She told me about the 3d printer, and I was intrigued. That’s why I ordered one as soon as I got home.

Should You Abbreviate 3-dimensional?

You should abbreviate “3-dimensional” when it helps to improve the flow and structure of your sentence. Most people do so when “3-dimensional” is only an adjective and not the main part of the sentence that people need to focus on.

Final Thoughts

“3D” and “3-D” are both correct. You should hyphenate it when following The Chicago Manual of Style (and AP Style allows both forms). It’s best to avoid the hyphen in most other styles. This is the most recognized form of the abbreviation, making it your best bet in writing.