A guide to the proper use of the hyphen in compounded words and phrases.
A hyphen is used:
a) To compound words which will form a compound adjective that precedes a noun.
first-rate service one-man job up-to-date fashions
When the compound adjective follows the noun, it is not generally hyphenated.
The service they provide, first rate and consistent, will be what turns that company into a success.
b) To compound numerals.
thirty-five forty-second twenty-six hundred
And compounding numerals with other words.
Ten-foot post twelve-o’clock lunch break 50-yard dash four-year-old boy
c) In certain compounds made up of nouns and prepositional phrases.
Mother-in-law hand-in-hand off-the-cuff
d) In titles compounded with ex and elect.
ex-wife ex-Governor President-elect
e) In compounds made up of prefixes joined to proper names.
mid-September anti-American un-American
f) To distinguish words spelled alike but differing in meaning.
re-count, to count again re-cover, to cover again
recount, to relate in detail recover, to regain
g) To eliminate the confusion where vowels are doubled in combination with a prefix.
* Exceptions to this rule are the words cooperate and coordinate along with their derivatives.
h) Generally in words compounded with self as the prefix.
Self-confidence self-worth self-reliant
* Do not use a hyphen in the word selfless or in pronouns compounded with self; as in, myself, itself, herself, etc.
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