GrammarPhile Blog

Comma Drama, Hyper-Hyphenation, and Smelling Salts

Posted by Yashmyn Jackson   Aug 9, 2018 7:30:00 AM

Brenda, Raj, Tom, and Vickie were still reveling in the success of their dusting caps ad campaign. No, the dusting caps hadn’t been the blockbuster success that the executives at Awesome Products, Inc., had thought they would be. (How could the consumer research department have known that bonnets that were topped with ostrich feathers and marketed primarily to tall men interested in easing their spouses’ dusting chores, wouldn’t sell like hotcakes?) But the quartet’s grammatically correct marketing slogan had been a smash hit with the industry associations that presented awards for excellence in advertising.

As a reward, their supervisor, Noelle, handed Tom a gift certificate to share with the group, just before dashing into a meeting concerning the company’s newest product to be launched: fluorescent smelling salts.

The four of them were sitting in the conference room. Tom passed the certificate to Raj, who read it then handed it to Vickie, who noted the web address then passed the certificate to Brenda. It read, “As a reward for your excellent service, please enjoy an early-bird special at this darling family-owned restaurant that just opened at First and Main. That should give you plenty of time to get to the 1 p.m. debriefing meeting on smelling salts.”

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Topics: hyphenation, hyphen

Comma Drama, Hyper-Hyphenation, and Dusting Caps

Posted by Yashmyn Jackson   Jul 5, 2018 7:00:00 AM

Brenda, Raj, Tom, and Vickie, who formed the junior sales-and-marketing team at the start-up Awesome Products, Inc., were brainstorming email content with which to advertise their remarkable new dusting cap. Brenda had a sudden flash of inspiration, grabbed the keyboard of the room’s computer, and excitedly started typing. The others looked up at the large monitor that hung along one wall of the room as words quickly appeared there.

“‘Incredibly,’” Tom started reading aloud right away, “‘tall people must duck when walking through doorways.’”

He frowned at Brenda, who had stopped typing. “First of all, why do you think it’s incredible that tall people have to duck? Second, why do you think all tall people have to duck, anyway? I’m tall, and I don’t have to duck when I walk through doorways.”

“That’s not what she typed,” interjected Vickie, who secretly regarded Tom’s height as average. She continued, “Brenda typed, ‘Incredibly tall people must duck when walking through doorways.’”

Not noticing Brenda nodding, Tom threw a gentle smile at Vickie. “You forgot to pause after ‘Incredibly.’ You see, there’s no hyphen connecting ‘Incredibly’ and ‘tall.’ So you don’t read them together.”

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Topics: hyphenation, hyphen, Comma

Master Prefixes and Suffixes with Hyphens

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Dec 8, 2017 7:30:00 AM

Identifying and understanding prefixes and suffixes of a word on their own may not be that difficult, but knowing where to put hyphens when you’re trying to write a uniquely arranged word or compound word isn’t always easy. Luckily, there are some general rules of thumb and tips to remember that everyone can follow to ensure that others at least understand what you’re trying to communicate. But first, let’s quickly recap what prefixes and suffixes are, and how they function.


Prefixes are added to the beginning of an existing word to create a new word with a different meaning. Prefixes don’t always have hyphens when they’re used, but they do change the grammatical function of a word in a sentence.

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Topics: hyphenation, hyphen, prefixes, suffixes

How to Know When to Use a Hyphen

Posted by Conni Eversull   Mar 2, 2017 7:30:00 AM


Don’t believe what you’ve heard or seen. The hyphen is not dead. Its use has been declining, but mostly in the realm of joining common nouns. In 2007, the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary eliminated hyphens from 16,000 entries. Bumble-bee became bumblebee, science books mention test tube instead of test-tube, and cry-baby joined to form one word.

The first recorded hyphen showed up in the work of Dionysius Thrax, the original grammarian. Back then, it was a tie-like (‿) sign used to join two words that one would otherwise have read separately. Then came letter-spacing in the Middle Ages, and the hyphen came to symbolize a connector between two words that had been incorrectly spliced by a space. We have Johannes Gutenberg to thank for the modern version of the hyphen. When setting his famous Bible, his tools wouldn’t let him include the hyphen below letters, so he moved it up to the middle of the line (Wikipedia).

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Topics: hyphenation, hyphen

Test Yourself Against Our Experts

Posted by Conni Eversull   Jun 18, 2014 6:00:00 AM

We thought we'd do something a bit different today. We often receive questions directed to our Grammar Experts and reply to them privately. I'm going to share some of these questions today and give you an opportunity to test yourself against our experts. Names have been changed to protect the innocent!

After you've completed your answers, please click the link at the bottom of the post to see our Grammar Expert's Answers.


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Topics: hyphenation, writing, commas

To Hyphenate or Not.....

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 26, 2014 6:00:00 AM

If you're an avid reader of our blog posts, then you know all about adverbs that do not end in ly and can be mistaken for adjectives. For example, An ill-clothed baby is correctly hyphenated, since ill is an adverb linked to clothed.

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Topics: hyphenation, adverbs

Do you over-hyphenate?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 7, 2013 6:30:00 AM

Don't ordinarily hyphenate adjectival combinations of adverb + adjective or adverb + participle unless the adverb does not end in ly and can be misread as an adjective.

Now--if that sounds like just a bunch of silly grammarese to you, let us put it simply: Don't hyphenate stuff like "fully involved" or "partially hidden treasure" -- if you do, people in the know who read your ad, proposal, white paper, cover letter, or contract will move it to the bottom of the stack and give preference to your competitors who make fewer mistakes. That's just a fact. Read on and find out if you're making other similar mistakes.

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Topics: hyphenation

Hyphenation in Titles

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 20, 2013 5:30:00 AM

Today we're writing about how to hyphenate titles.

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Topics: hyphenation

Hyphens, Fractions, Numbers

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Aug 14, 2012 5:30:00 AM

Sometimes confused about how and when to use a hyphen when writing out numbers, either whole numbers or fractions? Be confused no more after you read today's post.

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Topics: hyphenation, numbers, fractions

Adverbs + Participles

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 7, 2012 5:30:00 AM

Many of our blog article topics are inspired by common mistakes we see in documents. Today's post is all about adverbs and participles.

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Topics: hyphenation, participles, adverbs

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