Editor Afloat

Dedicated to Sticklers everywhere!

The Hyphen Mystery

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President Woodrow Wilson said the hyphen was “the most un-American thing in the world”. How ironic. It sounded rather prestigious when spoken but when some historian attempted to scribe those words; he had to use a hyphen.

There are at least 10 rules for the proper use of hyphens. I get lax on many occasions and probably don’t use them every time I should. They are useful, as in the case of continuing a word from one line to the next. As long as the writer remembers where to make the split, that application works quite nicely. Hyphens are used to show that letters should be spelled out: “J-O-N-E-S”. They are also used for numbers, such as forty-two, linking nouns to nouns: Dallas-Chicago flight, and adjectives to adjectives: short-timer syndrome.

Here are a few examples that may help illustrate using hyphens.

  • I bought a sink made of stainless steel. It was my first purchase for my all stainless-steel kitchen.
  • I need to leave by three o’clock. I am catching the five-o’clock flight to Denver.
  • The first-half excitement in that game was so intense that all the players were happy for a quiet second half.

So, what’s the big deal? What if I leave out a hyphen or two? In many cases, nothing really but word meanings are often changed with the use of a hyphen. Consider: reformed and re-formed. The difference there could be very important. Are you buying a little, used car or a little-used car? Does your club have a hundred odd members or a hundred-odd members?

You get the idea. But, wait, there’s more! We’ll look at choosing a compound word, a hyphen or using two words in our next visit. 🙂


Author: The Editor Afloat

The Editor Afloat provides proofreading and editing services for the written word. The name comes from the NCIS designation for a Special Agent assigned to a vessel, "Agent Afloat". I live on-board and work from my boat. That makes me an Editor Afloat!

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