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The rules about hyphens are not fixed. The points below are guidelines rather than rules. Use a hyphen to join words to show that their meaning is linked in some way: book-case or bookcase race-horse or racehorse pick-me-up 2. Use a hyphen to make compound modifiers before nouns: a blue-eyed boy but The boy was blue eyed.

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The prefixes all- , ex- , and self - usually need a hyphen: all-inclusive ex-wife self-control When a prefix comes before a capitalized word, use a hyphen: non-English When a prefix is capitalized, use a hyphen: A-frame 4. Collins and Longman confirm that only the second is in use among those who use the term regularly, but again Oxford clings stubbornly to the antiquated and pointless hyphen.

You should always respect the usage of the owner of the name. Now here is something important: it is usually essential to hyphenate compound modifiers.

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Compare the following: She kissed him good night. She gave him a good-night kiss.

The hyphen in the second example is necessary to show that good-night is a single compound modifier. Without the hyphen, the reader might easily be misled: Here the reader might be momentarily flummoxed into thinking that she had given him some kind of " night kiss ", whatever that means.

How to use a hyphen (-) | Lexico

Here are some further examples: Her dress is light green. She's wearing a light-green dress. This book token is worth ten pounds. This is a ten-pound book token. She always turned up for the parties at the end of term. She always turned up for the end-of-term parties. This essay is well thought out. This is a well-thought-out essay. Her son is ten years old. She has a ten-year-old son.

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Use hyphens liberally in such compound modifiers; they are often vital to comprehension: a light-green dress is not necessarily a light green dress ; our first-class discussion is quite different from our first class discussion ; a rusty nail cutter is hardly the same as a rusty nail-cutter ; a woman-hating religion is utterly different from a woman hating religion ; and a nude-review producer is most unlikely to be a nude review producer! You can mislead your reader disastrously by omitting these crucial hyphens: She always turned up for the end of term parties does not appear to mean the same as the hyphenated example above example adapted from Carey Consider the next two examples: The earliest known hominid was Homo habilis.

The earliest-known hominid was Homo habilis. These do not mean the same thing at all. The first means that, of all the hominids we know about, H. The second means that, of all the hominids, H. Effectively, the first sentence includes the structure [ earliest ] [ known hominid ], while the second includes the structure [ earliest-known ] [ hominid ]. Again, these two sentences would be pronounced differently, but the pronunciation difference is lost in writing; hence accurate punctuation is essential if you are not going to mislead your reader utterly.

In the past, these sorts of compounds were usually hyphenated, but the situation is different today. The tendency is now to write them as either one word or two separate words. However, the most important thing to note is that you should choose one style and stick to it within a piece of writing. Hyphens can be used to join a prefix to another word, especially if the prefix ends in a vowel and the other word also begins with one e.

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This use is less common than it used to be, though, and one-word forms are becoming more usual e. Use a hyphen to separate a prefix from a name or date, e. They show where a word is to be divided at the end of a line of writing.

The Hyphen

Always try to split the word in a sensible place, so that the first part does not mislead the reader: for example, hel-met not he-lmet ; dis-abled not disa-bled. Hyphens are also used to stand for a common second element in all but the last word of a list, e.

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You can read more about when to use hyphens on the Oxford Dictionaries blog. Here you will find helpful tips on when to use hyphens and examples of when they should not be used.