Learn English Grammar

Learn English






Edulyte 24x7 English Class

Learn English anytime, anywhere

Find Classes

Hyphen: Connecting Words and Concepts

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

Edulyte 24x7 English Class

Learn English anytime, anywhere

Find Classes
What will you learn

Introduction to Hyphens

What is a hyphen? Its purpose is to create compound words and clarify the relationship between words. Hyphens are crucial in writing as they aid in understanding complex terms, such as “self-confidence,” and prevent ambiguity. They are used in compound adjectives before a noun, like “well-known author.” Hyphens also assist in word division at the end of lines to maintain readability. Proper usage of hyphens ensures clear communication and enhances the overall quality of writing by providing structure and coherence.

When to Use a Hyphen

Knowing when to use a hyphen can be tricky, but here are some general guidelines. Use a hyphen when:

  • Creating compound words, like “high-risk” or “well-being.”
  • Joining prefixes or suffixes to a base word, such as “re-examine” or “child-friendly.”
  • Expressing numbers, like “twenty-one” or “three-quarters.”
  • Combining two or more adjectives before a noun, like “brightly-colored flowers.”

Common examples include “mother-in-law,” “up-to-date,” and “self-esteem.” To avoid confusion, use hyphens for clarity, like in “re-sign” (to sign again) versus “resign” (to quit). Consistency and following style guides can help navigate hyphenation challenges.

Hyphenating Words

Hyphenating words follows certain rules and patterns, although there can be exceptions and special cases. Here are some guidelines for hyphenating words:

  • Compound Words: Hyphenate compound words, like “well-being” or “self-confidence,” to clarify the relationship between the words.

  • Prefixes and Suffixes: Hyphenate when a prefix or suffix is attached to a word, such as “re-examine” or “child-friendly.”

  • Prefixes Ending in a Vowel and Words Starting with the Same Vowel: Use a hyphen to separate them, like “co-op” or “pre-empt.”

  • Doubling Letters: Hyphenate words with doubled letters, such as “re-apply” or “self-fulfilling.”

  • Numbers: Hyphenate numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine, like “thirty-six” or “seventy-two.”

Hyphenation patterns and conventions vary among languages and style guides. For English, patterns can include syllable breaks, such as di-vi-sion, and rules like hyphenating before a suffix starting with a consonant, as in “modern-day.”

Exceptions and special cases may arise, so it’s important to consult dictionaries and style guides. Some words may have different hyphenation depending on their usage or context. For instance, “record” as a noun is “re-cord,” but as a verb, it is “reco-rd.”

Keep in mind that consistent hyphenation enhances readability and clarity. Proofreading, using trusted references, and following style guides help navigate hyphenation challenges effectively.

Hyphens in Sentences

Hyphens in sentences play a crucial role by creating compound words and ensuring clarity and meaning. They are used to connect words in compound terms, like “high-risk” or “state-of-the-art.” Hyphens are also employed in phrasal adjectives that modify a noun, such as “well-known author” or “fast-paced action.” These hyphens prevent confusion and aid in comprehension. For example, “small business owner” could be interpreted as a small owner of a business, but “small-business owner” clarifies that it refers to the owner of a small business. Hyphens help disambiguate phrases, enhance readability, and provide a precise and concise expression of ideas within a sentence. It is very important to understand when to hyphenate a word and when to not

Hyphen and Compound Words

Hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes are all punctuation marks that serve different purposes in writing. 

Hyphens (-) are used to connect words or parts of words to form compound words or clarify the relationship between words. For example, “high-risk” or “self-esteem” are compound words created with hyphens.

En dashes (–) are slightly longer than hyphens and are used to indicate ranges or connections between two elements. They can be used to express a range of numbers, dates, or times, such as “pages 5–10” or “Monday–Friday.” They can also connect words to show a relationship, like “pre–World War II.”

Em dashes (—) are the longest of the three and are used to indicate a break or interruption in a sentence. They can be used in place of commas, parentheses, or colons to add emphasis or provide additional information.

Compound words are formed by joining two or more words together, either with or without hyphens. Hyphenated words are compound words that specifically use hyphens to connect the individual words. The distinction lies in the use of hyphens to create compound words or to indicate a different relationship between the connected words.

Hyphenation Style and Usage

Hyphen meaning, style and usage can vary among different style guides, such as the Associated Press (AP) Stylebook, the Chicago Manual of Style (CMS), or the Oxford Style Manual. It is important to follow the guidelines of the chosen style guide for consistency and accuracy in hyphen usage throughout a document or publication. Additionally, hyphenation may be adjusted based on specific writing styles or genres. For example, technical or scientific writing may have different hyphenation conventions compared to creative writing or fiction. Adhering to the appropriate style guide and adapting hyphenation to the specific context ensures clear and consistent usage in writing.

Tips for Using Hyphens Effectively

Here are some tips for using hyphens effectively:

  • Follow style guides and dictionaries for hyphenation rules.
  • Use hyphens to clarify meaning, especially in compound words or phrasal adjectives.
  • Be consistent with hyphen usage throughout your writing.
  • Avoid overusing or underusing hyphens.
  • Double-check hyphenation in compound terms or when combining prefixes or suffixes.
  • Proofread and edit hyphenated text to ensure proper breaks and readability.

Common mistakes to avoid include unnecessary hyphenation, inconsistent hyphen usage, and failing to hyphenate when needed. Using hyphens effectively enhances clarity and readability in writing, and careful proofreading and editing help ensure accurate and appropriate hyphenation.

Hyphenation in Specific Contexts

Hyphens meaning in specific contexts can vary. In academic writing, hyphens are used to clarify compound terms and create phrasal adjectives, such as “evidence-based research” or “well-developed theory.” Technical writing often employs hyphens for technical terms and to indicate precise connections, like “non-linear equation” or “user-friendly interface.” In creative writing and literature, hyphens are used creatively for poetic or stylistic purposes, such as creating visual effects or emphasizing wordplay, as seen in e.e. cummings’ “in-just-spring” or Lewis Carroll’s “cheshire-cat grin.” In each context, understanding the conventions and purpose of hyphenation ensures effective and appropriate usage.

Transform Your English Skills

Free sign-up for a personalised dashboard, learning tools, and unlimited possibilities!

Sign up Now Learn English Grammar Online

PTE Tutorials: Fast-Track to Your Top Score!

Master PTE: Dive in for success!

Sign up Now Learn English

Key Takeaways

  • Hyphens are used to connect words or parts of a sentence together.
  • They are used in compound words, such as well-being or self-esteem.
  • Hyphens clarify the relationship between words and enhance readability.
  • Hyphens are used in phrasal adjectives before a noun, like well-known authors.
  • Consistency in hyphen usage throughout the text is important.
  • Hyphens can be used to separate prefixes or suffixes from base words, such as re-examine or child-friendly.
  • Proper hyphenation helps avoid ambiguity and confusion in writing.
  • Proofreading and editing are crucial to ensure accurate hyphenation.
  • Different style guides may have specific hyphenation rules, so consult the appropriate guide.
  • Hyphens are distinct from en dashes (–) and em dashes (—), which have different uses in writing.


Check your score in the end


Check your score in the end
Question of

Question comes here

Frequently Asked Questions

When to hyphenate adjectives ?

Adjectives are typically hyphenated when they come before a noun and work together as a single concept or modify the noun. For example, “a well-known book” or “a high-risk game.”

When is a hyphen used ?

A hyphen is used to join words or parts of words together. It is used to create compound words, link prefixes and suffixes to base words, and clarify meaning or relationships between words.

How do I hyphenate compound words?

To hyphenate compound words, follow the general rule of placing the hyphen between the words or parts of words that form the compound. For example, “mother-in-law” or “self-esteem.”

What are some common hyphenation rules?

Some common hyphenation rules include hyphenating prefixes before proper nouns or capitalized words (e.g., pre-World War II) and using hyphens to join two words functioning as a single adjective (e.g., blue-eyed girl).

Should I hyphenate prefixes and suffixes?

Whether to hyphenate prefixes and suffixes depends on the style guide or dictionary. Some prefixes and suffixes are generally not hyphenated, while others may require a hyphen for clarity.

How do I use hyphens in phrasal adjectives?

Hyphens are used in phrasal adjectives when multiple words work together to modify a noun. The hyphen helps indicate that the words should be understood as a unit modifying the noun, such as “fast-paced action” or “well-written book.”

Are there any exceptions or special cases for hyphenation?

There can be exceptions and special cases in hyphenation, as language and usage can vary. Some words may have different hyphenation patterns depending on their usage or context. Consulting style guides and dictionaries can help navigate these exceptions.

What is the difference between a hyphen, en dash, and em dash?

The hyphen (-) is the shortest and is used to join words. The en dash (–) is longer and is used for ranges or connections, such as “pages 5–10.” The em dash (—) is the longest and is used for breaks or interruptions in a sentence, similar to parentheses or commas.

Share it with your friends

Learn English


Sign up for Learner Newsletter

Subscribe now for discounts, learning resources, blogs and guides. We do not spam.

We won’t pass your details on to anyone else. By clicking the subscribe button you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.


Sign up for Tutor Newsletter

Subscribe now for discounts, learning resources, blogs and guides. We do not spam.

We won’t pass your details on to anyone else. By clicking the subscribe button you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

PTE Tutorials: Customised Packages for Every Learner


$75 AUD

One time



$275 AUD

One time


$575 AUD

One time