Rules and Examples
hyphen is a short line ( - ) used in the English language to connect
the parts of a compound word or to connect split words such as numbers
(twenty-nine) and job titles (vice-president).
Click Here for Step-by-Step Rules, Stories and Exercises to Practice All English Tenses
A compound word is made by combining two separate words.
the dictionary, many of these words can be found written with a hyphen,
two separate words or as one complete word.
- book keeper
The current trend in English writing is to get rid of unnecessary
hyphens. Use a dictionary when in doubt. Click
here for some good online dictionaries
If you are still unsure on
whether or not to use a hyphen with a compound word, it is best to
leave the hyphen out.
Here are a few common
compound words that do not require a hyphen:
Here are a few common
compound words that are usually written with a
These are a few common
compound words that are written with a space between
the words and no hyphen:
- voice mail
- help desk
- fact sheet
- school year
- time line
General uses of the hyphen
Use a hyphen to join two or more words that
stand for a
(describing word) before a noun.
- chocolate-covered donuts
- well-known doctor
- much-needed vacation
- nice-looking girl
use a hyphen if the two words have separate meanings and do not
stand as a single adjective.
- friendly little girl
- beautiful red dress
- small round ball
2. Use a hyphen when spelling out numbers between 21 and 99.
3. Use a hyphen when spelling out fractions.
4. Use a hyphen to avoid confusion in meaning.
a little-used car
(The hyphen is used to mean a car that is not used often.)
a little used-car
(The hyphen indicates that the used car is small.)
5. Use a hyphen with some job titles.
Using hyphens with prefixes
As I said above, the current trend in writing English is to get rid of
unnecessary hyphens. Therefore, most prefixes do not require a
Follow the rules below when deciding whether to use a hyphen with a prefix
are still unsure and cannot find the word in a dictionary, it is best
not to use a hyphen.
1. Hyphenate prefixes before proper
- pre-Vietnam War
2. Use a hyphen with most words that begin with the prefix
not use a hyphen with the words "selfless" and "selfish.")
3. Use a hyphen with words that begin with the prefix ex-.
4. Use a hyphen with most words that begin with the prefix
not use a hyphen with "nonaligned," "nonconformist" or "nonstop.")
5. Use a hyphen when the prefix ends in the same letter the
6. Use a hyphen with the prefix re- when it stands
"again" and there is confusion with another word.
I will recover
from my illness.
(We do not use a hyphen because re-
does not mean again
means to get better.)
I am going to re-cover
(Use a hyphen because re-cove
means to cover again.)
Using hyphens to break lines
When reading books you may sometimes notice the hyphen at the end of a
The hyphen is there because there wasn't enough space in that line for
the entire word.
The solution was to divide that word between that line and the next
one. The hyphen is there to show us that this is actually a single word
that continues on the next line.
- Joe worked in the company for many years. Finally, He made
quit this job and find a new one.
These were the uses of the hyphen. Now that you know them, it is
time to practice! Read and do