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Aug 30, 2022

Read the following sentences: 

  • Dune has a good-looking poster. 
  • The sugar-free coke comes in a black can. 

In the sentences above, the adjectives that modify the nouns are kind of different from the ones we have actually taken a look at. Because, contrary to the usual norm, the adjectives used here comprise of two words that function together to describe a single noun. But, the most important part that needs our attention here is the punctuation mark that divides both the adjectives in the sentences to make them appear as a single word.This punctuation mark is called a hyphen. A hyphen (-) is a type of punctuation mark used to connect words or parts of words. As it is not interchangeable with other punctuations like dashes.It is very important to know when and where to use it so that its usage doesn’t look weird. 

Compound modifiers: 

Two words that blend together to form an adjective is called a compound modifier. A hyphen should be used to join the two words that would end up working together as one single adjective. The hyphen indicates that the words thus formed act as a single unit of meaning, like: 

  • We have gathered some rock-solid evidence that will put him behind the bars. 
  • The next time you go to the store, try to get some eco-friendly detergent. 
  • Stop knocking through the load -bearing wall. 
  • Interstellar is a well-made movie. 
  • The fast-acting tablets that I took are making me dizzy. 
  • Rihanna is a well-known singer. 
  • I have grown some beautiful-looking flowers in my garden. 
  • This building uses solar-powered lighting. 
  • The movie has some high-octane action sequences. 
  • These low-flying planes are the ones that create noise pollution in the city. 

It is important to note that in each of these sentences, the hyphenated adjective comes before the noun that it describes. If the noun precedes the adjective, leave the hyphen out. 

Compound adjectives with numbers: 

If the compound adjective uses a number in its first part, use a hyphen to connect the words that precede the noun, like: 

  • The Principal gave a 10-minute to the parents who attended the meeting. 
  • Marco has done some meticulous research for his seminar on seventeenth-century English literature. 
  • Richard lives in a two-storeyhouse. 

Hyphenated compound words: 

Like the name suggests, hyphenated compound words are the ones which use a hyphen between the words. Some commonly used hyphenated compound words are: 

  • Mother-in-law 
  • Editor-in-chief 
  • Ten-year-old 
  • Six-pack 
  • Master-at-arms 
  • Home-made 

Prefixes ex-, self-, and all- 

Use hyphens for words that have self-, ex-, and all- as prefixes like: 

  • Becky is Ted’s ex-wife
  • Dwayne feels extremely self-satisfied after doing his bit at the charity. 
  • Our good friend Dave, considers himself as an all-powerful leader at the office. 


When numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine are spelled out, they should be hyphenated, like: 

  • I have already drunk twenty-five cans of Sprite. 
  • I was born in nineteen ninety-eight


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