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Old 09-01-2008, 02:03 PM
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Default Hyphen


This connects individual words or parts of words to create certain terms, fractions, and two-word descriptions.

My brother-in-law (term) ate two-thirds (fraction) of the too-rich (description) cake.

Remember, if a two-word description comes before the noun, it's hyphenated; if it comes after the noun, it's not hyphenated.

I have a water-resistant jacket. (two-word description)
My jacket is water resistant. (regular description)

* * * * *

Everything you ever wanted to know (but were afraid to ask)

Hyphens are small horizontal lines placed between two connected words.

They are generally used for compound nouns, compound adjectives, compound verbs beginning with a noun, prefixes, numbers, word division.

Compound Nouns
A compound noun is simply two or more nouns combined to create a single noun, and comes in three flavours: closed, hyphenated and open.

Closed form: firefly, basketball, suitcase
Hyphenated: mother-in-law, book-binder
Open form: full moon, post office, real estate

Some compound nouns begin in the open form, become hyphenated after a while, and eventually morph into a closed form. So how do you know whether to use a hyphen or not?

1. If the second part of the compound noun ends in -er, it is hyphenated.


2. If the first part of the compound noun ends in -ing, it is hyphenated.


3. If the compound noun has prepositions or adverb particles, it is hyphenated.


Compound Adjectives
A compound adjective is two or more adjectives that are dependent on each other for their combined meaning.


Adjectival phrases can also be hyphenated when used before the noun:

an all-too-common mistake
an out-of-work teacher

Compound Verbs Beginning with a Noun
These are verbs that are specifically tied to a noun. For example:


The following prefixes are often separated from the word that follows by a hyphen:


Occasionally, words beginning in un-, re-, or counter- are also hyphenated to avoid confusing or unusual combinations of letters.


Numbers from 21 through 99 are written out with hyphens.


Fractions are also written with hyphens:


Word Division
Sometimes it is necessary to split a word in half. This often occurs in magazine publishing when a long word appears at the end of a line. Rather than leave a large white space, the word it broken and wrapped over from the end of one line to the next. The rule for dividing words is to break them at established syllables.

So backward could be broken as:

Misunderstood could be broken in several places:


But do not break words in the middle of syllables, ie:


<> <> <>

Still confused? Here’s a general rule to follow then:

If a compounded modifier appears before the noun, then it is hyphenated.

fire-resistant fabric
high-speed chase

If the modifier appears after the noun, then it is not.

The second-rate opera company gave a performance that was first rate.

In the above example, because the modifier (second-rate) appears before the noun (company), it is hyphenated.

In the second part of the same sentence, the modifier (first rate) appears after the noun (performance) so is not hyphenated.

<> <> <>

Hyphens are becoming less common. Many words that were originally hyphenated have morphed into a closed form (weekend, wideawake), while others have lost the hyphen to exist as separate words (living room, taxi driver). There can be variations owing to British or American usage as well.

If you are unsure whether a word should be hyphenated or not, there is no substitute for looking it up in a good, up-to-date dictionary; an online dictionary; a style guide; or a grammar book. If your budget stretches to it, you might even consider buying a dedicated dictionary aimed at writers and editors.

But failing all else, the Oxford University Press’s Practical English Usage (Michael Swann, 2005) says: "write the words without a hyphen."

Q Wands

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Last edited by Q Wands; 02-04-2009 at 02:17 AM..
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