Hyphen Usage in English

What is a hyphen?

The word hyphen came from ancient Greek which literally means ”under one”. The hyphen is a punctuation mark that is used to separate and join words in sentences. Mostly hyphen and dashes are confusing. The hyphen is short while dashes are longer. Dashes also have a different use.

A hyphen can also be confused with the minus sign which is longer in some texts. Most people confuse hyphen with dashes and the minus sign. Mostly dashes and minus sign are longer that hyphen as seen in most contexts. This guide is certain to guide you step by step on what is a hyphen and its usage. They also have different uses in sentences.

In ancient Greek, they used the hyphen to make two consecutive words to look like one. It is normally written below two words. When a hyphen is used between two words the two words show as if they are in one, one word. The use of a hyphen in a sentence is termed as hyphenation. There is three heated kind of word.

  • Soft or optional hyphens
  • Optional hyphen
  • Hard hyphen

Examples of hyphenated words are:

  • Non-hyphenation
  • Hard and soft hyphens

The software has a program that automatically inserts a hyphen in words. The software allows words to be hyphenated but does not force words to be hyphenated. The software makes the automatic decision for the user. It allows the text to reflow even after a page break. The optional or the soft hyphen was introduced for this purpose.

On the contrary, a hard hyphen is those that can be printed or displayed. Some people use this definition to define non-breaking hyphen. Soft hyphens are automatically placed in words in the computer, whenever they should be. This work is very tedious and hard to be done by hand hence tools like hyphenation logarithms are normally used to do the work.

Non-breaking hyphen

Also known as a no-break hyphen or non-breaking hyphen. The no-break hyphen is similar to the normal hyphen but is used as a word in word processors. Here words, hyphenated words, cannot be separated when it comes to the end of a line in a text, either they come in full at the end of a line in a context or come at the beginning of a sentence in a text.

The non-breaking spaces work in the same way as a non-breaking hyphen. Most people use spaces in place of hyphens. Many use hyphens as word breaks. Most word segmentation rules use the hyphen as a word break when flowing a sentence.

Hyphen usage

In the English language, there is no distinctive definition and use for the hyphen though mostly they try are find the suitable usage. The style guides have recommendations of the hyphenation rules that are very detailed. Hyphens are used to join two separate words into on one and also separate one into separate words. Spaces cannot be used in place of hyphens or whatever it connects unless it is a hanging hyphen.

A hanging hyphen is also termed as a suspended hyphen which is used to show a repetitive word. A word that has been repeated in a sentence. For instance, eighteenth- and fifteenth-century entertainers. So much have evolved and this has made the style conventions to make it easy to use a hyphen. People use a hyphen and other elements to Essen their work during reading.

The use of the hyphen in compound nouns and verbs is declining with time, gradually. The compound words that use hyphens are now left with spaces or they are combined to be on the sword. In the year 2007, most dictionaries were reducing the number of words that use hyphens.

The shorter Oxford dictionary removed 16000 words from the dictionary that use hyphens. For example, the word fig-leaf, pot-belly and pigeon-hole are now fig leaf, pot belly and pigeonhole respectively. The changing technology and adverse internet have now generated common nouns that may be used in place of words that had been hyphenated. For instance, toolbar and Paste bin.

Even with the decreased use of hyphenation, it still stands as the best in most common modifiers among some authors and some prefixes. Hyphenation is still in use in syllabification in a text that needs to be justified to prevent unsightly spacing. For example, in newspapers and column that are very narrow.

The following are some of the uses of the hyphen:

  • Separating
  • Joining

Two words could either be brought together or separated by a hyphen forming a compound word. Some use spaces or are joined together. In this modern world, the dictionaries can state a word into three different words.

  1. Hairstylist
  2. Hair-raiser
  3. Hairsplitter

Use of hyphens in compound words is diminishing. In some dictionaries, the word hairsplitter is written as hair splitter with a space between the two words. The following uses follow the rules of hyphenation.

  • Hyphens are used to join two or more words that could be used as a single adjective before nouns:
  • a two-way street
  • chocolate- flavored peanuts
  • well- known movie
  • If these compound modifiers come after nouns, they are not hyphenated:
  • Those peanuts were chocolate flavored.
  • The movie is well known
  • The street was a two anyway
  • A hyphen is used to show compound numbers in texts:
  • Fifty- eight
  • Ninety- four
  • Forty- one
  • Our much-loved mother was forty-two years old
  • A hyphen is used in words to avoid confusion or awkward combination of letters in texts:
  • Resign and re-sign
  • Shell-like and childlike
  • Child-like but shell like
  • Semi-permanent but semiconductor
  • Semiconscious but semi-permanent
  • A hyphen is used a line break, where it only divides hyphenated words at the hyphen:
  • mass-destruction
  • mass-produced
  • child-like
  • shell-like
  • The hyphen can be used as a prefix to show former, ex-, also can be used to show self-, and all-; can also be used with the suffix – August; also, between a prefix and a capitalized word; with the letter of figures:
  • Ex-boyfriend
  • The mid-1990s
  • T-shirt
  • president-elect
  • mid-August
  • all-exclusive
  • anti-marriage
  • The hyphen is used to divide words and syllables at the end of a line and form breaks between syllables:
  • in-di-vid-u-a-list
  • Use hyphens for line break with words ending with -ing, if a single final consonant in the word is doubled before the suffix, then hyphenate between the consonant or else the suffix itself is hyphenated.
  • Gal-ling
  • Bal-ling

This could be a rule, do not put the first or last letter of a word at the beginning of a sentence. Also, do not put two-letter suffixes at the beginning of new sentences.

Example of hyphenated words in sentences

  • Our much-loved woman was re-elected
  • The president-elect is going to give a speech
  • Her ex-boyfriend is getting ready to leave
  • In the mid-1990s, they sang good songs
  • Your T-shirt is used to clean windows
  • The mid-August parties
  • I’m buying all-exclusive of the torn shoes
  • The anti-marriage campaign is over
  • You are turning twenty-eight in August
  • This car has a shell-like seat
  • She has child-like behavior
  • When I woke up, she was semi-conscious
  • The chocolates-flavored peanuts are over
  • The well-known movie was seen
  • It was a semi-permanent house family-owned business is very hard to collapse
  • The friendly-looking mass is on the road to church downtown
  • I video-gamed the whole morning since I was bored with his stories
  • My teacher asked me to double-check my work before I collected it
  • The party has between 300-350 people that I know
  • I needed an off-campus apartment to do my projects without distractions
  • The well-known building in Nairobi, Kenya has collapsed with 20, 000 people in it.
  • A well-known scientist is on his way to the moon to study it
  • Our kids need a friendly-looking nanny to watch over them
  • My mid- September attachment program is on the way
  • My mid-January cats are yet to begging, so please allow me some time to study

Hyphenated words

  • Mid-July
  • Hair-raiser
  • Hairsplitter
  • Hair-dresser
  • Hair-stylist
  • President-elect
  • Sell-ing
  • All-inclusive
  • All-exclusive
  • Anti-virus
  • Anti- boys
  • Anti-marriage
  • The Mid-1970s
  • Mid-September
  • Mid-year
  • End-month
  • T-shirts
  • Much-loved
  • Well-presented
  • Shell-like
  • Child-like
  • Semi-conscious
  • Semi-permanent
  • Semi-annual
  • Super-girl
  • Two -way
  • One -way
  • Most-wanted
  • Most-preferred
  • Most-likely
  • No-meter
  • Video-game
  • Off-campus
  • State-of-the-art
  • Family-owned
  • Most-preferred
  • Most-annoying
  • 30-40 people
  • Fifty-eight
  • Ninety-four
  • One-hundred
  • Super-hero

How to hyphenate words

There are rules to be used around this confusing and misunderstood word. Rule number one is that the hyphen should not be replaced with dashes which have different rules from the hyphen and is also longer than the hyphen. Rule number two is that the hyphen should not be separated with spaces. No spaces around hyphenated words.

300-400 people

The main use of hyphens is to join words together. A hyphen in a sentence is used to show that two or more words are linked together and they are one. There are rules and regulations that run the hyphens. Also, the hyphen is used to separate words in the sentence.

  • Rule 1.Two or more words hyphenated that come before a noun are considered like a single idea or one word

An off-campus house

But when the compound adjective comes after a noun, it is not hyphenated. But there are dictionaries both online and offline that hyphenate the compound adjective used after a noun.

Your apartment us off campus

Your apartment is off-campus.

  • Rule 2.The hyphen is necessary when you are forming original compound words

Queen Elizabeth throne-sat for a while

I video-gamed the whole morning today

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The president-elect is going to deliver a speech tomorrow

  • Rule 3.This rule has been neglected mostly for hyphens. That the adverb very and the words ending with –ly re not to be hyphenated

For example

The very important person just left the shoe

The finely-chopped onions smell so great

Instead, use:

The finely-smelling dog came to my feet to sleep

The family-owned business is in the process of developing

  • Rule 4.Hyphens can be used to tell and show the ages of people and things. Always use a hyphen when writing about a day, month and year or any other period of time. Do not use a hyphen when the period of time be it a day, month, year or week is written in plural form.

With hyphen:

We have a two-year-old infant it the back of the car

We are celebrating the two-year-old birthday of our girl

Without hyphen:

My son is three years old. The words cannot be hyphenated because the word years is in plural

When expressing the age of anything, two hyphens should be used since it may show something different.

For instance, when you say;

I have a two-year old in the house

This only talks about the old child but when you say:

I have a two-year-old child

This shows that the child is two years of age.

  • Rule 5. Hyphens are used to hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine

My watch has forty-two rings around it

Forty-eight is my only lucky number

I am in a row of twenty-two chairs

  • Rule 6.You should not hyphenate when writing out numbers that have fractions, just hyphenate the fractions.

The billboard is ten and three-eighth feet wide.

You are now certain of using hyphens rightly in different applications in your sentences. You can also go though different examples of hyphen usage just to perfect your knowledge and understanding, then take an initiative of applying what you have already learnt from this guide.