Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How to Use the Hyphen

You may have seen this before, but it's a great
collection of pack bookshelves
This semester I've been taking a writing course, and some of the best lessons that I've learned are the ones about grammar and sentence mechanics. Today I wanted to talk about hyphen use, because it's always puzzled me so here are the rules that I've learned:

1. Use a hyphen when two words are joined to be a single adjective before a noun.
Examples:
I like jelly-filled donuts.
Micheal has sky-blue eyes.
Sunny Smith likes packed-full bookshelves.

BUT if the adjectives are after the noun, you don't hyphenate them.
Examples:
The donuts were jelly filled.
Micheal's eyes are sky blue.
Sunny Smith likes bookshelves that are packed full.

2. Use a hyphen to compound numbers. 
Examples: 
Fifty-three
Forty-nine
Twenty-two

3. Use the hyphen to get rid of confusing or awkward letter combinations:
Examples:
Bell-like
Re-sign the letter (vs. resign from a job)
Semi-injured

4. Use the hyphen to separate the prefixes ex-, self-, and all- from the root word. Use a hyphen to separate the root word from the suffix "elect". Use the hyphen between a prefix and a capitalized word, as well as between and numbers/letters.
Examples:
Ex-lover
Self-confident
Mid-October
Mayor-elect
Mid-1700s
All-inclusive
T-shirt
Pre-World War II

5. Use the hyphen for end of line breaks. Only separate the word at syllable breaks. 
Examples:
Rich-
est
Con-
venient

BUT if the word already has a hyphen in it, do the line break only at the hyphen.
Examples:
Ex-
husband
All-
inclusive

AND if the word ends in -ing, split the word before the -ing, unless there is double consonant (because you added -ing), then hyphenate between the double consonant. 
Examples:
Jump-
ing
Call-
ing
Plan-
ning

AND never put the first or last letter of a word at the beginning of a line. Don't put two-letter suffixes at the beginning of a new line either. 
Bad examples:     Good Examples:
E-                        Eval-
valuate                 uate
Quick-                Quickly (move whole word to new line)
ly

There you go, how to use a hyphen. Hopefully this has helped you some, and if you have any questions or disagreements, don't hesitate to comment with them. Another question for the comments: How often do you use a hyphen when writing?

What I'm reading: Why We Write by Meredith Maran
What I'm listening to: "Moving Mountains" by Thrice
What I'm watching: Doctor Who (2005)

P.S. To give credit where credit is due, I used a paper handed out in class to write this post. It says the contributors are Sean Conrey and Karl Stolley.

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