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Hyphen Punctuation in Writing


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.

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.

        co-owner               semi-independent              

  *  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.

Back to Punctuation Page

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