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Hyphen In a Sentence

Hyphen In a Sentence

Even though not too many people use the hyphen, it is not dead. Its main function is the arrangement of particular compound terms, but on the other hand, the hyphen is also used for word division. One thing is certain a hyphen can be tricky to use sometimes. So, read on to find out what hyphen is, how to use it correctly and what the main characteristics are.

What is a Hyphen?

A hyphen is a small horizontal line, such as given in the brackets (-). It is most commonly used between parts of a compound name or word, or between syllables of words at the end of a sentence. In other words, hyphens serve to remove confusion from sentences and to blend multiple words to form a single meaning. In any case, make sure to always consult your dictionary if you are not sure if a hyphen is required in a compound word. At the same time try to remember that current usage may have changed since your dictionary was published.

Is It a Hyphen or a Dash?

If youve been thinking 'Oh, a hyphen is a dash!' while you were reading the definition of the hyphen, you might be wrong and need to check these two terms again. It is completely true that hyphens and dashes look similar. But, they serve different functions in writing. The hyphen is solely used to join two words together and is just one horizontal long line.

On the other hand, a dash is most commonly used in order to interrupt the flow of a sentence or to create an effect. Moreover, a dash is sometimes used to show that the sentence's writer is changing thoughts. A dash looks like this: , and is longer than a hyphen. Even though they appear almost the same in writing, dashes and hyphens are not interchangeable.

Functions of Hyphen

The main function of a hyphen is to separate words or to blend separate words into a single word to make things more clear in a sentence. Furthermore, hyphens serve to remove ambiguities from sentences. In spite of its decreased use, the hyphen still represents a model in compound-modifier structures with some prefixes. To be even more exact, hyphenation is usually used in justified texts in order to avoid unnecessary spacing such as in newspaper columns.

Characteristics of Hyphen

  • In cases when a compound adjective comes before the noun, they are hyphenated such as,
    A yellow-colored blouse
  • Also in cases when a compound adjective comes after the noun, there is no hyphen such as,
    My blouse is yellow colored.
  • When the hyphen is omitted with such compound adjectives as the sales tax reform resolution, as well as adjectives preceded by adverbs that end in -ly such as,
    An oddly presented solution

General uses of the hyphen

1. A hyphen is used to join two or more words that stand for a single adjective before a noun

Examples:

  • chocolate-covered cookies
  • well-known sportsman
  • much-needed help
  • cool-looking guy

Make sure not to use a hyphen if the two words have separate meanings and do not stand as a single adjective.

Examples:

  • talkative little boy
  • beautiful white dress
  • small round ball

2. Use a hyphen when spelling out numbers from 21 to 99

Examples:

  • twenty-one
  • thirty-five
  • sixty-five
  • eighty-seven

3. Use a hyphen with a Noun and Past Participle.

Use a hyphen when the compound goes before the verb it modifies.

Example:
Wind-powered generators can be great sources of electricity.

4. Use a hyphen when spelling out fractions

Examples:

  • one-third
  • three-fourths
  • five-eighths

Hyphen In a Sentence

5. To avoid confusion in meaning

Examples:

  • a little-used car
    (The hyphen is used to imply that a car is not used very often)
  • a little used-car
    (The hyphen symbolizes that the used car is rather small)

6. A hyphen used with some job titles

Examples:

  • vice-president
  • attorney-general
  • secretary-general

7. Use a hyphen in Compound Adjective with Numbers

Whenever numbers are used as the first part of a compound adjective, a hyphen is used to connect them to the noun that follows them.

Example:
A girl threw a rock at the third-story window.

8. Use a hyphen in Compound Adjective with Fractions

When using a fraction as part of a compound adjective, it should be hyphenated so the reader can understand which fraction is modifying which noun.

Example:
A quarter-million dollars is all you need.

Using hyphens with prefixes

Surprisingly or not, the current trend in writing English is to get rid of unnecessary hyphens. Hence, most prefixes do not require a hyphen.

Its always a good idea to follow the rules when deciding whether to use a hyphen with a prefix. In case you are still unsure and cannot find the word in a dictionary, it is best not to use a hyphen.

1. Hyphenate prefixes before proper nouns

Examples:

  • un-Italian
  • anti-Republican
  • pre-Vietnam War
  • mid-June

2. With most words that begin with the prefix self-

Make sure not to use a hyphen with the words "selfless" and "selfish."

Examples:

  • self-control
  • self-respect
  • self-check

3. With words that begin with the prefix ex-

Examples:

  • ex-husband
  • ex-military
  • ex-student

4. With the majority of words that begin with the prefix non-

Its important not to use a hyphen with words such as "nonaligned," "nonconformist" or "nonstop."

Examples:

  • non-smoker
  • non-alcoholic
  • non-violent

5. Use of a hyphen when the prefix ends in the same letter that the word begins with

Examples:

  • semi-invalid
  • inter-related

When Not to Use a Hyphen?

1. Do not use a hyphen in place of a semicolon

Usually, semicolons are used to separate two complete but related clauses. In theory, semicolons would naturally stand separately. However, because theyre related, a semicolon is appropriate and the second clause expands on the first.

Incorrect: I went to the mall; I needed some new hats.
Correct: I went to the mall. I needed some new hats.

2. Never use hyphens as commas

This happens especially with offsetting parenthetical elements.
Incorrect: Mary who is usually a very calm girl is quite irritated by injustice.

It is clear that the spacing does not matter here and the hyphen is still the wrong choice for punctuating this sentence.

Also incorrect: Mary-who is usually a very calm girl-is quite irritated by injustice.

Can you spot some irregularities here? Mary-who and girl-is are put together as if theyre hyphenated!

So, lets see what can be done here and fix the incorrect example.

Correct: Use commas. Mary, who is usually a very calm girl, is quite irritated by injustice.
Correct: Use an em dash. Mary who is usually a very calm girl is quite irritated by injustice.

Hyphen In a Sentence

3. Never use hyphens in place of colons

Heres another rule. Colons are most commonly used to go ahead of lists. So, in case youre fancy listing things, dont use a hyphen! Unless youre listing nouns preceded by compound descriptors.

Examples:
Incorrect: We are a family of three my wife, me, and our dog.
Incorrect: Heres my Christmas list-a a new skateboard, a game, and some cash.

Guess what spacing still doesnt matter. If you wonder why, it is because its still a hyphen, and its still incorrect.

Now its time to fix them:
Correct: We are a family of three: my wife, me, and our dog.
Correct: Heres my Christmas list: a new skateboard, a game, and some cash.

4. Never use hyphens in place of em dashes

In case you didnt know, em dashes are used stylistically and are very versatile. When compared to hyphens, em dashes can take the place of colons, commas, and parentheses.

Examples:
Incorrect: We can help you look better- even if you dont feel good now.
Incorrect: Game rooms offer tons of fun options from infants up through big kids.

You can see that, again, the spacing does not matter: its still a hyphen, and its still incorrect.

So lets fix these
Correct: We can help you look better even if you dont feel good now.
Correct: Game rooms offer tons of fun options from infants up through big kids.

5. Do not use hyphens with the word very or adverbs ending in -ly

As already mentioned, hyphens can be used to make compound words. However, some words dont need to be joined. People often make mistakes with this one especially with the -ly one. But, if you simply learn the rules, youll be able to catch it 99% of the time and it becomes some sort of the alarm when you see an -ly word the next time.

Examples:
Incorrect: Im a newly-married, happily-employed proofreader.
Incorrect: Have you seen her very-organized closet?

Thankfully, these are pretty easy to fix. Just take out the hyphen!
Correct: Im a newly married, happily employed proofreader.
Correct: Have you seen her very organized closet?

***

As you already know, the rules for hyphenating at line endings can sometimes be so complicated that its pretty challenging to keep track of them. If you ever happen to be in a situation where you have to hyphenate at line-breaks, go and get a dictionary. Thats unless you are able to explain why you would break experience between the e and the r. If you are able to do that, then you can do whatever you want. Try to remember that if you adjust one line-break for aesthetic reasons, it may well affect subsequent line-breaks in the text.

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