We discussed three instances when we use a hyphen (Part 1 here and Part 2 here).

Here are some more instances.

4. Use a hyphen for certain prefixes.

  • ex- (meaning former). Examples: ex-serviceman, ex-president, ex-wives
  • self-. Examples: self-addressed, self-correcting, self-proclaimed, self-deprecating (contrast that with selfless)
  • all-. Examples: all-knowing, all-points bulletin, all-purpose, all-terrain vehicle, all-in (adjective)
  • great-. Examples: great-uncle, great-grandmother

5. Use a hyphen if the word that follows any prefix—not just those listed above—is a capitalized word or a figure (number).

For instance, the prefix mid need not use a hyphen when combined with common nouns, e.g., midlife, midsummer, midair, midrange. But when a capitalized word (proper noun) comes after it, then we add the hyphen, e.g., mid-March, mid-Atlantic Ridge, mid-’60s.

Same rule goes for the prefix anti. We’d write antidepressant, antiabortion, antihistamine, antisocial. But we’d write anti-G suit, anti-Western, Anti-Lebanon Mountains, anti-’80s.

Same rule for the prefix non. Examples: nonage, nonalignment, nonessentials, nonfiction, nonhuman. But we’d write non-U, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Pro, however, sometimes requires a hyphen. Examples: pro-life, pro-nuncio, pro-family. Sometimes pro doesn’t require a  hyphen: proactive, prorate. But, always, when what follows is a capitalized word or a figure, we use the hyphen, e.g., pro-’90s, pro-Cory.

Same rule for the prefix half, which often, but not always, requires a hyphen. Examples: half-life, half-bred, half-sister, half-moon. But we’d write halfhearted, halftime.

6. Use a hyphen after a letter. Examples: T-shirt, A-list, B-movie.

7. Use a hyphen for the suffix elect, e.g, president-elect or senator-elect.

If all that sounds confusing, don’t despair. Just check the dictionary. :)

More examples at Purdue’s Online Writing Laboratory. There’s also a nice list at Grammar and Usage for the Non-Expert.

Photo credit: Etsy.com


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