Real World or Real-World?

The two-word term real world is a noun that refers to the actual world rather than an imaginary one. E.g., “He doesn’t live in the real world.” Furthermore, the compound adjective real-world always comes before a noun. E.g., “She has little real-world experience because she has just graduated.”

There are two correct spelling versions of the term real world, and they both appear in the Cambridge Dictionary.

The first is the noun form, which you write as two words with no hyphen.

  • He has no experience applying his skills in the real world.

The second way to write the term is as one word with a hyphen, which is the compound adjective form.

  • She needs to gain experience in the real-world application of her abilities.

If you are writing a text in AP Style, you should follow this advice regarding the hyphen.

In addition, this grammar rule does not vary between the US and the UK and is merely a general rule for compound words.

Now that you have read the basics concerning the term real world, please keep reading to learn more about how and when to use each version of the term.

Real World

The two-word term real word is a noun that you use to refer to the actual world instead of a fictitious one.

People often use the term ironically to indicate that someone is acting surprisingly or is not connected to the same world or reality as everyone else.

As shown in these examples:

  • He has so much money he doesn’t live in the real world.
  • My boss wants me to finish this report by 5 pm. She doesn’t live in the real world.

In addition, people sometimes use the term to differentiate between academic and working life. In this context, the real world refers to applying skills to professional projects rather than academic ones.

  • He will not feel so confident once he graduates and works in the real world.


The hyphenated term real-world is correct and is a compound adjective in this form. When you use real-world in this form, the noun it describes always comes straight afterward.

You commonly use the term real-world to refer to things that happen outside of a structured environment like training or education.

As shown in these examples:

  • It is essential to give language students real-world examples of everyday conversations.
  • Pilots are often nervous when they perform their first real-world landing outside a simulator.


The term realworld as one word is incorrect, and you shouldn’t use it in your text. Instead, you can spell the term realworld in two ways, depending on which word type you want to use.

If you refer to the real world itself, then you should not use a hyphen because the term is a noun.

  • Correct: Jack needs to get a grip and start living in the real world.
  • Incorrect: Jack needs to get a grip and start living in the realworld.

Alternatively, when there is a noun directly after the term, you need to use a hyphen because it is a compound adjective.

  • Correct: Students must produce real-world language in the speaking section of the exam.
  • Incorrect: Students must produce realworld language in the speaking section of the exam.