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Hyphen

In general, the move is away from hyphenated words, whether used as nouns or adjectives:

  • fundraising
  • groundbreaking
  • bestseller

Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix such as pre- or non-with a word starting with a consonant.

Instances when a hyphen is to be used:

  • Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel.
  • Use a hyphen if the word that follows must be capitalized  
  • With words beginning with the prefix co-, retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives, and verbs that indicate occupation or status, such as co-worker and co-founder.
  • Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes, as in sub-subparagraph.
  • A hyphen is needed with compound words that must be distinguished from homonyms, such as in the case of recover and re-cover. 
  • Use a hyphen when the last letter of the prefix and the first letter of the following word are the same, such as with pre-engineering,, pre-election, or pre-establish.

If not referenced in the above rules, follow Webster's New World College Dictionary, hyphenating if not listed there.

  • prearrange, pregame, precook, premedical, predate
Hyphenate “part time” and “full time” only when used as adjectives:
  • He is a part-time instructor in the English department.
  • She works full time in the computer laboratory.

Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving as a single adjective before a noun:

  • tree-ripened peach
  • well-qualified instructor
  • a one-way road

However, when compound modifiers come after a noun, they are not hyphenated:

  • The peach was tree ripened.
  • The instructor is well qualified.
  • The road is one way.

Do not use a hyphen to connect an adverb ending in “ly” to the adjective it modifies

  • highly qualified student
  • elegantly furnished home

When omitting the second part of a hyphenated term, retain the hyphen and follow with a space:

  • 10- to 12-year-olds
  • Hartford- or Greenwich-bound lane

SPECIFIC TERMS:

Do not hyphenate “grade point average.”

Do not hyphenate the term “vice president.”

Do not hyphenate African American, Asian American, etc. when used as a noun.

For rules about capitalizing hyphenated words in a title or headline, see our capitalization section.