Style Guide - H
Two words except as part of a name, such as Center for Healthcare Informatics. hyphen (-)
Hyphens are joiners. Use them to avoid ambiguity or to form a single idea from two or more words. Use of hyphens should be restricted to instances where they don't cause confusion.
Avoid ambiguity: Use a hyphen whenever ambiguity would result if it were omitted:
Small-business owners were not happy.
(A small business is usually two words, not hyphenated. But in this case the hyphen is necessary to connect the two words, so that readers don't assume the business owners themselves were small.)
Also: He recovered his health. He re-covered the leaky roof.
Compound Modifiers: When a compound modifier – two or more words that express a single concept – precedes a noun, use hyphens to link all the words in the compound except the adverb very and all adverbs that end in –ly: a first-quarter touchdown, a bluish-green dress, a full-time job, a well-known man, a better-qualified woman, a know-it-all employee.
However, when a modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs instead after a form of the verb to be
, the hyphen usually must be retained to avoid confusion: The man is well-known. The woman is quick-witted. The children are soft-spoken. The play is second-rate.
The principle of using a hyphen to avoid confusion explains why no hyphen is required with very and -ly words. Readers can expect them to modify the word that follows. But if a combination such as little-known were not hyphenated, the reader could logically be expecting little to be followed by a noun, as in little man.
Two-thought compounds: serio-comic, socio-economic.
Compound proper nouns and adjectives: Use a hyphen to designate dual heritage: Italian-American, Mexican-American
. No hyphen, however, for French Canadian or Latin American.
Apr 18, 2011