Hydro lines
Hydro towers march through the landscape near Ottawa, Canada.

H is for hyphens

Hyphens (-) are little dashes that have many uses.

Hyphens in compound words

Compound words may be hyphenated (or they may be closed up together or they may be left as two separate words). Look in the dictionary for help.

Hyphenated compound words and phrases

horse-trade, hot-wire, house-sit

Jack-of-all-trades

Closed compound words

hereinafter, hothouse, household

Open compound words

high school, hydro line, phone booth

Hyphens in confusing words

Use a hyphen to help the reader understand the sense of the word in context.

re-creation (as opposed to recreation)

co-op (as opposed to coop)

eight-part sets (as opposed to eight partial sets)

Hyphens between descriptors before a noun

Use a hyphen between the following:

two  or more adjectives before a noun

high-class home, third-floor bachelor

an adjective and a participle

hard-hitting handball game

an adverb and an adjective or participle

much-heated stew

Exception

Never use a hyphen after a word ending in —ly.  

hardly heard hymn

a noun plus a participle

hand-held device

a noun plus an adjective before a noun

cheese-free hamburger

age terms

three-year-old cheese

Note

Do not use a hyphen if the descriptors come after the noun.

The home was high class.

The game was hard hitting.

The cheese was three years old.

Hyphens mark words split between two lines of type.

Heavenly hash is the kind of meal that many want to avoid eating because left-

overs are not appetizing.

Exercises

  1. Pick up a newspaper. Find some hyphenated words and figure out what parts of speech are in the phrase.

Special reading assignment

  1. Henry hankered to measure the height of hydro towers in the right-of-way.
  2. Horrified onlookers watched the steel-built hydro towers fall in the fierce ice storm. [Near Montreal, 1989.]

 

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