GrammarPhile Blog

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).

Read More

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.


Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

Topics: hyphenation, participles, adverbs

More Compound Adjectives

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Dec 6, 2011 5:30:00 PM

We began last week's post with "No aspect of style causes greater difficulty than compound adjectives." Some readers took exception to that statement. Okay, it was over the top, perhaps. But you would just not believe the debates these things can cause when a group of strong-willed (strong willed?) grammarians get together and haggle over a client's document! Surely we can all agree that mistakes concerning compound adjectives are at least far too commonplace.

Here are two more rules, with examples, covering some words you may have wondered about:

A number of adjective-noun combinations (such as real estate or social security) and noun-noun combinations (such as life insurance or money market) are actually well-established compound nouns serving as adjectives. Unlike short-term, low-risk, red-carpet, and part-time, these expressions refer to well-known concepts or institutions. Because they are easily grasped as a unit, they do not require a hyphen.

  • accounts payable records
  • branch office reports
  • income tax return
  • life insurance policy
  • public relations adviser
  • word processing center
  • nuclear energy plant
  • social security tax
  • exception: a mail-order business

When a compound adjective consists of a noun plus an adjective, hyphenate this combination whether it appears before or after the noun.

Read More

Topics: hyphenation, adjectives

Compound Adjectives

Posted by Julie DeSilva   Nov 29, 2011 5:30:00 AM

No aspect of style causes greater difficulty than compound adjectives. When a compound adjective is shown hyphenated in the dictionary, you can assume only that the expression is hyphenated when it occurs directly before a noun. When the same combination of words falls elsewhere in the sentence, the use or omission of hyphens depends on how the words are used.

Read More

Topics: hyphenation, adjectives

The Internet, Email, and E-Books

Posted by Conni Eversull   May 10, 2011 5:30:00 AM

The following is a guest post by Alexis Bonari.

Read More

Topics: hyphenation, capitalization

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Posts by Topic

see all