H is for Hydro Towers

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


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


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


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.


  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.]


H is for Heron

Ardea herodias
Great Blue Herons prefer fishing; mice are so messy.

H is for heteros and homos

Heteronyms are words with the same spelling, but a different sound and meaning.

bow (verb, to bend over)

bow (noun, a knotted ribbon)

produce (verb, to create something)

produce (noun, fruits and vegetables)

Homonyms are words with the same sound or spelling, but different meanings. Homonyms include homographs and homophones.

Homographs are words with the same sound and spelling, but a different meaning.

spell (noun, a witch’s charm)

spell (verb, create the proper form of a word)

spell (noun, a short time)

spell (noun, a short amount of activity or work)

Homophones are words with the same sound, but a different spelling and meaning.

pair (noun, a couple)

pare (verb, to remove the skin of a fruit or vegetable)

pear (noun, a fruit)


  1. Think of some additional heteronyms and homonyms and create confusing sentences with them.


H is for Hens and Chickens

Sempervivum sp.
This succulent garden plant is very hardy. Perhaps you call it a house leek.

Letter combinations

The letter H combined with other letters creates new sounds.

ch—  The H changes the sound of C.

chat, cheese, church, witch



dh—  The H softens the sound of D a little.

dharma, dhow


In compound words, the d and h are pronounced.


gh— The H is silent.

gherkin, ghost

gh —  The H changes the G to sound like an F.

cough, laugh, slough (pronounced sluff, meaning to shed one’s skin)

gh  The GH combination maybe silent.

eight, slough (pronounced slew, meaning a wetland), through

kh—  The H is silent.

khaki, Khyber Pass

ph—  The H changes the P to sound like an F.

pharmacy, philosophy


In compound words, the p and h are pronounced.


rh—  The H is silent.

rhapsody, rhesus

sh—  The H changes the sound of S.

share, sheep, shore

th—  The H changes the sound of T.

thanks, the, then, thick, thin, thud


In names, anything can happen.

Anthony, Thomas

wh—  The H changes the sound of W.

what, when, where, who, why


  1. Look for letter combinations in words in a book or newspaper. Say them out loud.
  2. Create your own alliteration using one or more of the letter combinations.

Special reading assignment

  1. How do happy hamsters huddle in hutches?
  2. Handymen have hammers.
  3. Hens and chickens are sometimes grown in a thatched roof.