Part x. How to Properly Use Hyphens

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This topic was requested by thehiddenblackpearl.

Hyphens' main purpose is to glue words together. They notify the reader that two or more elements in a sentence are linked.

Hyphenating Compound Words

You use a hyphen to split a word (between syllables) at the end of a line, but you also use a hyphen to join some compound words.

A compound word is a word made up of two words. For example, eyelash (eye lash), billboard (bill board), and airplane (air plane).

The rules about when to hyphenate a compound word are a bit tricky. The problem is that compound words go through an evolution from open compound (two separate words) to hyphenated compound to closed compound (one word with the two parts shoved together).

The best advice I can give you is to just Google it when you aren't sure whether to hyphenate a compound word or not.

You often use a hyphen between compound adjectives that come directly before the noun they modify. Compound adjectives are two or more words that together create an adjective, and should be understood as one word. But do not hyphenate these adjectives when they come after the noun they modify.

They are in a long-term relationship.

Their relationship is long term.

So in the above example, 'relationship' is the noun and 'long term' is the adjective, because it is describing how long, modifying the relationship (noun).

When the adjective comes before the noun, you hyphenate it. When the adjective comes after the noun, it stays as is.

Here's where grammar gets a bit tricky, again.

When two adjectives modify a noun, sometimes a sentence can be read two different ways, causing the reader to become confused.

Wendy shopped at the silver-jewelry kiosk.

That sentence is clear that Wendy shopped at the kiosk that only sells silver jewelry. Take away the hyphen and the sentence could have a completely different meaning.

Wendy shopped at the silver jewelry kiosk.

Now, you can't tell whether or not the jewelry or the kiosk is silver.

For three adjectives modifying a noun, the same theory applies.

Wendy wanted the purple stitched jean jacket.

From this example, we can't tell if the stitching is purple or the jacket is purple.

Wendy wanted the purple-stitched jean jacket.

Okay, so now we know that the jean jacket has purple stitching.

Wendy wanted the purple stitched-jean jacket.

Here, we know that the jean jacket is purple with stitching.

Hyphens With Age

I touched upon this in the previous part, 'Top Writing Errors Most Wattpad Writers Struggle With.'

If you are writing out the age of a character hyphens may be needed.

When the age is an adjective that comes before the noun and modifies the noun, or when the age is a noun, hyphenate.

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