Hyphenated Words

Hyphenated Words are words that are joined by means of a hyphen, for example:

a) middle-aged

  • He was a handsome, middle-aged man.


b) twelve-year-old

  • We saw a twelve-year-old with his mother.

But how do I know if a word should be hyphenated or not?

Well, the best option would be to check a recent dictionary. However, if you follow the below rules, you shouldn't have much trouble either.

1. We use the hyphen with two or more adjectives before a noun that act as one idea.

For example:

a) part-time

  • This is a part-time job.

b) full-time

  • I don't have much time: family, full-time job and other responsibilities.

2. We use the hyphen with expressions where words are linked by usage to express one idea.

For example:

a) father-in-law

  • That tall man over there is my father-in-law.

b) top-notch

  • This is a top-notch thriller.

3. We use the hyphen with fractions and ordinal numbers consisting of two words.

For example:

a) eighty-four

b) thirty-seventh,

c) two-fifths

d) one-eighth

4. We use the hyphen with words prefixed by self-, all-, ex-, or cross-.

For example:

a) self-discipline

  • To give up smoking you need to exercise your self-discipline.


b) ex-girlfriend

  • I'm still good friends with my ex-girlfriend.


5. We use the hyphen with proper adjectives prefixed by co-, pre-, mid-, de-, non-, anti-.

  • The process of de-Stalinisation is almost over in this country.

But in what cases we do not use the hyphen?

1.  We do not use the hyphen with compounds using comparative or superlative adjectives.

For example:

  • This is a better written book.

2. We do not use the hyphen with modifiers using a letter or numeral as the second element.

For example:

  • This is a class A priority—we must do it first.

3.  We do not use the hyphen with adverbs ending with -ly.

For example:

  • A carefully planned day of activities.

4. We do not use the hyphen with chemical terms.

For example:

  • There is a strong concentration of sulphur dioxide in the test probe.


5. We do not use the hyphen with words prefixed by un, in, dis, co, in, non, post, out, bi, counter, mis, micro, inter, semi, anti, re, and so on. The list is much longer.

For example:

Unprepared, counteractive, misconception, etc.