The main use of a hyphen is to join two or more words together.
Sometimes a word needs a hyphen for it to be spelt correctly.
In some situations there are no hard and fast rules and the use of hyphens is a matter of personal preference. However, there are some guidelines on when you should use them.
In compound adjectives (single adjectives formed from two or more words) that appear before a noun
- An up-to-date guide is a guide that is up to date.
- Income-based Jobseeker's Allowance is a benefit that is based on your income.
- An energy-efficient fridge is one that is energy efficient.
These hyphens are often necessary to avoid confusion.
- A blue-collared shirt is a shirt with a blue collar, while a blue collared shirt could be a blue shirt that has a collar.
- A French-dictionary salesman is a man who sells French dictionaries, while a French dictionary salesman could be a Frenchman who sells dictionaries.
- A red-wine bottle is a bottle for red wine, while a red wine bottle could be a wine bottle that is red.
To distinguish one word from a similar one
- re-sort, not resort
- co-op, not coop
- re-form, not reform
Some words formed with a prefix are always hyphenated.
With some prefixes, a hyphen is not necessary but is preferable to help with pronunciation, avoid a double vowel, or stop a word looking odd.
When numbers between 21 and 99 are written out in full
- one hundred and thirty-four (Note that only 'thirty-four' is hyphenated.)
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