Hyphenated Words

Rules and Examples of Hyphenated Words/Expressions
Examples of compound adjectives that require use of a hyphen:
  • He's a better-prepared ambassador. (but not "The ambassador was better prepared")
  • It's his best-known work.
  • He's an ill-informed reporter.
  • First-class decisions require clear-headed thinking.
  • Those are lower-priced tickets.
  • She's a well-dressed announcer.
  • They're a sports-loving group.
  • Your fear-inspired loyalty is notable.
  • Early thirteenth-century architecture is remarkable.
  • He has a devil-may-care attitude. (more than one hyphen may be necessary)
Examples of coequal nouns that require use of a hyphen:
  • She's a true scholar-athlete.
  • John, a famous author-chef, paid us a surprise visit.
  • She was a notable writer-critic in the community.
Examples of hyphens used in common expressions:
  • mother-in-law
  • top-notch
  • fine-tune
  • x-ray
  • ex-wife
  • self-evident
  • all-inclusive
  • cross-reference
  • anti-flammatory
  • pre-owned
  • merry-go-round
  • editor-in-chief
  • state-of-the-art
  • re-elect
  • mayor-elect
  • sugar-free
  • oil-based
  • action-packed
  • all-out (as in "all-out war")
  • all-American
  • back-to-back
  • day-to-day
  • eye-catching
  • drive-thru
  • gas-fired
  • good-hearted
  • know-it-all
  • quick-tempered
  • time-saving
  • full-time
  • part-time, etc.
Hyphens for ages and numbers:
  • We have a nine-year-old child. (or: Our child is nine years old.)
  • Room sixty-five is available for rent. (compound numbers that are two words long)
  • More than two-thirds of registered voters participated. (simple fractions)
  • Read pages 33-44 for homework. (closed ranges)
Other uses:
  • You need to re-cover that sofa. (meaning, to "cover again," not recover or recuperate)
  • The players intention was to re-sign his contract. (not resign, which means to quit)
  • In this post-Victorian novel, the characters seem flat. (unusual hyphen after a prefix)
  • The plane activated its anti-icing measures. (hyphen needed for clearing understanding)
  • Sir Winthrop Heinz-Eakins will attend. (hyphenate double last names)
  • The dance-athon went on all night. (more clear than danceathon)
  • I'm sure this machine is wiretap-proof. (since wiretapproof would be awkward)
  • The Trans-Siberian Orchestra show was amazing. (well-known group/event)
  • The McCain-Feingold Act passed unanimously. (legislation)
There are, however, many expressions that do not get hyphenated (the following is only a partial list):
music lover post war high school semifinal
father figure prescheduled better built microcircuit
antiwar reinvigorate hydrogen perioxide override
coworker semiretired Class A misprint
multinational unambiguous cross section interoffice
nonjudgmental underrepresented nonemergency disbar
overpay social security hyperactive regift