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Neck and neck

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  • The idiom meaning so close that the lead between competitors is indeterminable is neck and neck. It is often incorrectly written neck in neck.

     

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    Although some usage authorities recommend always hyphenating neck-and-neck, we can treat this idiom like a typical phrasal adjective: hyphenate neck and neck when it precedes the noun or phrase it modifies (e.g., a neck-and-neck race), and leave it unhyphenated when it functions as a predicate adjective (e.g., the race was neck and neck). When it functions as an adverb (e.g., they ran neck-and-neck), it can go either way. 

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    Examples

    It was a suspenseful, neck-and-neck race to the finish line. [San Francisco Chronicle]

    By the time the official campaign started, Labour and the SNP were neck and neck. [Guardian]

    Even the Liberal and Conservative candidates say they are running neck and neck. [Canada.com]

    He scored eight straight points in the second half to help Butler break out of a neck-and-neck game with the Rams. [Chicago Tribune]

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