A hyphen joins two or more words together (e.g. x-ray, door-to-door) while a dash separates words into parenthetical statements (e.g. She was trapped - no escape was possible.

external image hyphen.jpg

  • Compound numbers and fractions

1. Use hyphens with compound numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine. For example:
    • twenty-one
    • forty-five
    • seventy-seven
    • ninety-nine
Also use hyphens to separate numerators and denominators in fractions. For example:
    • one-half
    • two-thirds
    • five-eights
    • three-tenths
  • Compound nouns

2. Use hyphens with some compound nouns. For example:
    • mother-in-law
    • T-shirt
    • cul-de-sac
Do not use hyphens with other compound nouns. For example:
    • toothpaste
    • witchcraft
    • babysitter
The best way to determine if a compound noun requires a hyphen is to consult a dictionary.
  • Coequal nouns

3. Use hyphens to join coequal nouns. For example:
    • writer-illustrator
    • director-actor
    • librarian-professor
Do not use hyphens between nouns in which the first noun modifies or describes the second. For example:
    • child actor
    • football player
    • chocolate cake
  • Compound modifiers

4. Use hyphens to join compound modifiers that precede nouns. For example:
    • middle-class family
    • self-fulfilling prophecy
    • soft-hearted neighbor
Use hyphens to join adjectives with adverbs such as better, best, ill, lower, little, and well. For example:
    • well-known novelist
    • better-prepared student
    • ill-mannered child
Use hyphens to join compound modifiers in which the second word is the present or past participle of a verb. For example:
    • sports-loving uncle
    • fear-inspired devotion
    • hate-filled rhetoric
Use hyphens to join compound modifiers that contain numbers. For example:
    • sixth-floor stacks
    • second-semester freshmen
    • twentieth-century literature
Do not use hyphens to join compound modifiers that follow state-of-being verbs and that directly modify the subject of the sentence. For example:
    • The author is well known.
    • Those peanuts are chocolate covered.
    • This child is ill mannered.
    • My students were better prepared.
Do not use hyphens to join adjectives with adverbs ending in -ly or the adverbs too, very, or much. For example:
    • very hungry caterpillar
    • too ripe tomatoes
    • much loved grandmother
    • extremely terrible day
  • Phrases as modifiers

5. Use hyphens to separate words in phrases functioning as modifiers that precede nouns. For example:
    • all-you-can-eat buffet
    • out-of-this-world experience
    • over-the-counter medication
  • Prefixes and suffixes

6. Use hyphens with certain prefixes and suffixes such as all-, anti-, -elect, ex-, mid-, neo-, post-, pre-, pro-, and self-. For example:
    • all-purpose
    • mid-century
    • self-employed
    • president-elect
Use hyphens with the prefixes anti-, mid-, neo-, post-, pre-, and pro- that precede proper nouns and numbers. For example:
    • anti-American
    • mid-1980s
    • post-Vietnam War
    • pro-American
Do not use hyphens with most other prefixes. For example:
    • antiwar
    • coworker
    • unhappy
    • disinterested

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