How To Use A Hyphen Correctly

how to use a hyphen correctly

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The hyphen (-) is a punctuation mark used to combine words, separate syllables, and indicate connecting relationships between words. Knowing how to use a hyphen correctly can help you express yourself better in writing and make your sentences easier to read. This article offers clear guidelines on how to use the hyphen correctly in different contexts.

What is a Hyphen and How Does it Work

A hyphen is a short horizontal line that joins two words together to form a compound word. It works by connecting words that would otherwise be separate, giving them a new meaning altogether.

Hyphens are also used to join numbers, such as phone numbers, and in some cases, to split a word at the end of a line to avoid breaking it up awkwardly. They are a simple yet powerful tool used in the English language to add clarity and precision to our writing.

how to use a hyphen correctly

The Different Types of Hyphens

Hyphens are an important part of English grammar that can be tricky to master. Several different types of hyphens serve different purposes, such as the en dash, em dash, and figure dash.

Understanding the various types of hyphens and their uses can greatly enhance your writing skills and make your text more clear and more concise.

When or How to Use a Hyphen Correctly in Compound Words

Compound words are two or more words that are combined to create a new word with its meaning. When creating a compound word, it is important to know when to use a hyphen. Generally, a hyphen is used when two or more words are combined to create an adjective that modifies a noun.

  • For example, a well-written book or a fast-paced race. However, if the compound word does not modify a noun, a hyphen is not necessary.

It is important to note that some compound words have become so common that they no longer require a hyphen, such as baseball or brainstorm. Knowing when to use a hyphen in compound words can help improve your writing and make your communication clearer.

Using Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes

Hyphens may seem insignificant, but they play an essential role in the English language. Particularly, when it comes to prefixes and suffixes, the correct use of hyphens can change the meaning of a word entirely. Prefixes like “pre-” and “re-” often require a hyphen to avoid confusion, while suffixes like “-like” and “-friendly” seldom need one.

Therefore, understanding when to use a hyphen with prefixes and suffixes is crucial to communicating effectively in written English. By using hyphens correctly, you can convey your intended meaning clearly and concisely, whether you are writing a formal email or drafting an academic paper.

Connecting Two or More Nouns Together with a Hyphen

When it comes to connecting two or more nouns, a hyphen can be your best friend. Used correctly, a hyphen can clarify the relationship between different words and help readers understand the intended meaning of a phrase.

  • For example, the phrase “self-help book” is completely different from “self help-book.”

The inclusion of a hyphen changes the meaning entirely, from a book that helps oneself to a book that helps with book-making. Hyphens can also be used to avoid confusion or ambiguity.

For instance, the phrase “small business owner” is clearly understood to mean an owner of a small business, while “small-business owner” could be interpreted as an owner of a business that sells small items. So, the next time you’re writing a sentence with multiple nouns, don’t be afraid to reach for the hyphen!

Writing Numbers as Words or Digits with a Hyphen

Whether it’s writing a check or presenting data in a professional report, the choice between writing numbers as words or digits with a hyphen can be a tricky one. Generally, numbers one through nine are written out as words, while 10 and above are expressed as digits. However, when numbers are used as modifiers, such as in phone numbers, social security numbers, or measurements, a hyphen is used to connect the digits. It’s important to be consistent in your use of numbers throughout your writing to avoid confusion for your audience.

And don’t forget, there are some exceptions to the rule, such as when writing years or percentages. So, whether it’s as simple as writing out your address or as complex as drafting a financial analysis, consider the appropriate format for writing numbers to make your writing clear and concise.

Creating an Adjective Phrase Using A Hyphen

When it comes to creating an adjective phrase using a hyphen, it’s all about connecting two or more words to describe a single noun. The hyphen acts as a bridge, linking words both visually and grammatically. This technique is especially useful when you want to add specificity and detail to your writing, whether it’s in an article, a product description, or a piece of creative writing.

  • For example, “well-trained” or “fast-moving” instantly give the reader more information about the subject than just “trained” or “moving.”

With a little bit of practice and experimentation, you can easily master the art of creating adjective phrases using hyphens and take your writing to the next level.

Joining Independent Clauses With A Hyphen

When it comes to writing, it’s essential to understand how to effectively connect independent clauses. One way to do so is by using a hyphen. This punctuation mark can be used to link two related clauses and make them flow together seamlessly. It’s important to note that the use of the hyphen should be limited to when the clauses are closely related in meaning and are not complete sentences on their own.

  • For example, “The dog was tired – it had been an active day at the park.”

This way, your writing style will become more flexible, understandable and logical. So next time you find your writing needs a little boost in its flow, consider the hyphen to connect those independent clauses.

Combining Multiple Adjectives Into One Word With A Hyphen

Did you know that combining multiple adjectives into one word with a hyphen can make your writing more concise and impactful? By doing so, you can create a single word that captures the essence of multiple descriptors.

  • For example, instead of writing “the tall, dark, and handsome man,” one could simply write “the tall-dark-and-handsome man.”

This not only saves space but also adds a poetic touch to your writing. It’s important to note that there are rules to follow when using hyphens to combine adjectives, such as only using them when the adjectives are of equal weight and not separating two adjectives that are commonly used together. So next time you are writing, consider using this technique to enhance your prose.

Avoiding Confusion by Inserting A hyphen Between Homophones

Homophones can be tricky, even for the most skilled writers. These words have similar pronunciations but different meanings and spellings, leading to common writing mistakes. One way to avoid confusion is by inserting a hyphen between homophones. This simple punctuation mark can make a big difference in the clarity of your writing.

  • For example, “re-cover” and “recover” have different meanings, but without a hyphen, it can be difficult to distinguish which word you intend to use.

By taking the time to add a hyphen, you can ensure that your writing is precise and easy to understand for any reader.

Utilizing the Dash Function on Your Keyboard For Longer Sentences

The keyboard is a very useful tool when it comes to writing. And if you know how to use the Dash Function, you can make your writing even better. Using a dash is a great way to break up a sentence that might be too long or not flow well. It can help to add emphasis or to clarify a point.

By using the dash, you can make your writing more engaging and easier to read. So next time you’re stuck on a sentence that just isn’t working, try utilizing the dash and see how it can make a difference.

Connecting Words To Show Affiliation With A Hyphen

Hyphens are an essential tool when it comes to linking words and phrases. They help to create a clear affiliation between words, necessary for proper sentence construction. When two words are connected with a hyphen, they join together to form a compound word that often carries a new meaning altogether.

  • For example, “state-of-the-art” is a term that refers to something modern and up-to-date, but when separated into individual words, it loses its impact entirely.

As a writer, it’s vital to understand the correct use of hyphens to ensure clarity in your writing. It’s also important to note that not all words require hyphens and that the rules around them can be complex, so it’s worth studying closely to avoid any grammatical errors.


Hyphens are essential punctuation marks that can have a powerful effect on your writing. They can be used to join related clauses and descriptors, as well as to create compound words and prevent confusion between homophones. You can even use the dash function on your keyboard for longer sentences or when you need to add emphasis. Lastly, linking words with a hyphen is also important for proper sentence construction and helping readers understand the relationship between them – all of which is necessary for any good writer!

With these guidelines in mind, you should now have a better understanding of how to correctly use hyphens in your work. Try utilizing some of these tips and see how it helps to improve your writing!


When should I use a hyphen?

Hyphens can be used to join two words together or to separate syllables in some compound words, such as “mother-in-law” and “well-being”. They can also be used to form some verb forms and certain adverbs. Additionally, hyphens are often used to show that a word is being divided between two lines of text (i.e., when the end of a word falls at the end of one line, but the rest of it continues on the following line).

Are there any specific rules for using hyphens?

Yes! There are several important rules that you should keep in mind when using hyphens:

  • Do not use a hyphen between an adverb ending in “ly” and the word it modifies. (For example, you should write “quickly moving car” instead of “quick-moving car”).
  • When two or more words are used together as a single adjective before a noun, they should be joined with a hyphen. (For example, “long-term solution”).
  • Hyphens can also be used to link numerical values and fractions (e.g., “twenty-six” and “two-thirds”).
  • To avoid confusion, use hyphens when writing numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
  • Do not use hyphens when writing out numbers from one hundred and above.

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