Exploring English HomeHyphen ( - )

This section of Exploring English describes use of the hyphen ( - ) in English punctuation.


Used in compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine:

thirty-seven

Used to express decades in words:

nineteen-eighties

Used to indicate a range of numbers:

pages 2-2000

Used to form compound nouns.

Austro-Asiatic
woman-child
house-broken

Note: English is an evolving language. The trend for new compound nouns is to join separate words with a hyphen, then to drop the hyphen when the compound noun is in common usage. Thus "house boat" became 'house-boat', then 'houseboat'. Consult a recent dictionary for the current preference.

Used to spell out a word:

c-o-r-r-e-c-t

Used to divide a word into syllables:

en-cy-clo-pe-di-a

Used to separate double letters that may cause confusion in a prefixed word:

co-operation
non-native

Used to join the elements of a compound modifier when used before the noun it modifies:

They ran a fly-by-night government.


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Last Modified April 08, 2003