Posted by: Jack Henry | August 8, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Using Hyphens for a String of Words

Let’s face it—it can be confusing to know when to use hyphens. I won’t be able to cover everything you need to know about hyphens today, but I will explain why and when you need to use hyphens to string more than two words together.

When a string of words is used to describe a noun, and that string precedes the noun, those describing words are hyphenated. You might want to re-read that last sentence. It’s important because when you’re talking about whether to add hyphens, you need to remember that the describing words must come before the noun.

Take this sentence, for example:

· Her father was a behind-the-scenes manager.

The phrase behind the scenes precedes the noun manager, and it describes what kind of manager the father was.

If you were to place the phrase after the noun, you would not use hyphens.

· Her father managed her from behind the scenes.

Here’s another example:

· The movie was replete with over-the-top characters.

The phrase over the top precedes the noun characters, and it describes what the characters were like.

Again, if you were to place the phrase after the noun, you would not use hyphens.

· The movie was replete with characters that were over the top.

And here’s a final example that many people have trouble with:

· He had a four-year-old daughter.

· His daughter was four years old.

I hope you have a productive and fun-filled day!

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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