Using Hyphens

What is a hyphen?

A hyphen a mechanical tool used to divide and connect separate elements of individual words. Though it looks quite similar to a dash, the hyphen is used to clarify meaning in particular words rather than sentences.

A hyphen is used:

  • In some compound words A compound word is created when two words are combined to make a new word with a new meaning. Incorrect hyphenation can change the meaning of the word(s). Hyphenated compound words are usually used to describe nouns.


  1. Look! There’s a man eating shark!
  2. Look! There’s a man-eating shark!
  • In fractions In order to designate fractions in writing, we use hyphens.


  1. We must add two thirds to get the correct answer.
  2. We must add two-thirds to get the correct answer.
  • In numbers twenty‐one through  ninety‐nine In English, these numbers require hyphens in writing.


  1. I gave the waitress twenty five dollars and she never gave me change!
  2. I gave the waitress twenty-five dollars and she never gave me change! 
  • To connect prefixes to nouns and  adjectives.  A prefix is placed at the beginning of a word to modify or change its meaning. Usually, hyphenated prefixes are used to separate two consecutive vowels to avoid confusion.


  1. We went a caroling on Christmas Eve.  
  2. We went a-caroling on Christmas Eve.
  • To connect a single letter to a  word This rule is usually used to designate an action.


  1. I need to de-ice my car.


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