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You’re hyphen a laugh - Day 2

The man eating shark

Consider the headline above. At first glance, it appears to be describing some terrifying sh. However, in reality, it’s referring to a man in a restaurant enjoying a meal. e scary version requires a hyphen:

the man-eating shark

<a rel="license"  data-cke-saved-href="" href=""><img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0"  data-cke-saved-src="" src="" /></a><br />This work is licensed under a <a rel="license"  data-cke-saved-href="" href="">Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License</a>.

(photo credit: Flickr user Elias Levy;

Hyphens come in very handy when you are describing things with more than one word and you want to fully clarify your meaning. Here are some more examples:

the pickled onion seller (a drunk onion seller)

the pickled-onion seller (someone selling pickled onions)

the light green dress (a lightweight garment)

the light-green dress (a garment that is light in colour)

the first class meeting (first in a series of class meetings)

the first-class meeting (a great meeting)

Sometimes, you may need to use two hyphens to connect three describing words:

the at-a-glance guide to good grammar

Also, this only applies if the compound precedes the noun:

a well-drawn face her blood-red scarf it was a well-known fact a fifteenth-century manuscript

a well-liked man

However, if the compound follows the noun then the hyphen is unnecessary:

the face was well drawn her scarf was blood red the fact was well known the manuscript dates from the fifteenth century the man was well liked

However, do not use hyphens when the compound’s first part ends in –ly:

a happily married couple a newly discovered manuscript a prettily furnished room a highly competitive market

Does your compound look like a car crash rather than a beautiful union? Then use a hyphen:








but note:



You should also use a hyphen to yoke a prefix to a proper name:



and to avoid confusion with a similar word:

re-form (to distinguish from ‘reform’)

re-cover (to distinguish from ‘recover’)

re-sort (to distinguish from resort)

Hyphens belong in spelt-out numbers and fractions:



but not in compass points:


Southeast Asia

Until you make further compounds for the wind directions, then you need a hyphen:


Some family titles hyphenate, some do not:



great-aunt stepmother


se a hyphen:de-ice drip-proof non-e ective

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