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Editorial Guide: To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate?

The easiest way to determine whether to hyphenate or where to break a word is to look it up in the dictionary. Avoid breaking words in a publication-move to the next line whenever possible. Refer to the Chicago Manual's Table 6.1, "A Spelling Guide for Compound Words," for more examples. Do not hyphenate compounds preceding or following a noun where the hyphen would be placed after a word ending in ly: highly regarded scholar; ridiculously long commute; unreasonably difficult take-home exam

Adjectival phrases

Hyphenate phrases used as adjectives before a noun.

  • The proposal was a last-ditch effort at credibility.
  • The students compiled a mile-long list of requested improvements.
  • three-mile limit; 100-yard dash; one-inch margin; full-time student; fifteen-week semester; eight-week session;

but,

  • a 10 percent increase (The word percent is always spelled out in text format, and it is never hyphenated.)

When a numbers and units of measurement are used adjectivally, they should be hyphenated:

  • 12-inch rule; nineteenth-century painter, three-week course

All, fold, half, like, self, wide, multi

Hyphenate compounds that use all whether they precede or follow the noun.

  • The wizard in the story was all-knowing and all-seeing.
  • His is an all-encompassing compassion; he serves without thought of praise or other reward.

Adjectival compounds with fold are spelled solid, unless they are formed with figures.

  • The professor noticed a threefold increase in class attendance when he started using more videos.
  • The results indicate an amazing 175-fold decrease in cellular mutation.

Hyphenate half compounds whether they precede or follow the noun.

  • Dave was only half-awake during the review session.
  • Their half-hearted efforts were unsuccessful.

Any like words can be spelled solid.

  • He had a childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm that made class really interesting.

Self words should be hyphenated.

  • self-employed; self-serving; self-sufficient

Use a hyphen with all proper nouns and wide:

  • University-wide.
  • Do not hyphenate other wide words: statewide, nationwide, countywide.

Multi words are spelled solid unless such a spelling makes for awkward reading.

"Co" words

Words formed with the prefix co should be hyphenated. This is University style. Using a hyphen between the co and the root word makes the word more readable and prevents confusion. Exceptions: coed, coeducational, cooperate.

  • co-author, co-chair, co-owner, co-founder

Compounds preceding a noun

Compounds with well-, ill-, better-, best-, high-, little-, lesser-, low-, etc., are hyphenated when they precede the noun unless the expression carries a modifier: well-known man; he is well known; high-quality work; very high quality work.

Grade-point average

Hyphenate grade-point. Avoid abbreviating this, but if you must, use GPA-all caps, no periods.

Hyphens, dashes

A general rule is that hyphens link items and dashes separate items.

A hyphen joins words to form compound adjectives or is used to attach certain prefixes or suffixes to words.

The dash that is usually typed as two hyphens (--) is typeset as an em dash (-). It indicates a break in thought and can be used within a sentence to insert a parenthetical phrase. Neither a double hyphen nor an em dash should have spaces on either side.

The en dash (-) is used between ranges of numbers or dates, or between adjectival phrases containing two-word concepts (1984-87; pp. 123-34; New York-Dallas flight). En dashes do not have spaces on either side. Do not use an en dash to replace a hyphen.

If you need a detailed description, see the Chicago Manual.

"Non" prefixes

  • noncredit
  • nondegree-seeking student
  • nondiscrimination
  • nonpreregistered
  • nonprofit
  • nonstudent
  • non-University

One word or two? Hyphens or not?

  • advanced standing student
  • classwork is one word, but course work is two words
  • coed; coeducational
  • cross-country (the sport)
  • daytime; nighttime
  • decision-making process; the process of decision making
  • fifteen-week semester
  • full-time: full-time student (adjective); He will be working full-time (adverb); also, part-time
  • fund-raising is hyphenated as a noun and as an adjective; fund-raiser is also hyphenated
  • grade-point average
  • grant-in-aid
  • inter-spell solid: intercollegiate, interorganizational
  • lifelong-adjective (daylong; monthlong; weeklong; yearlong)
  • life span (noun); life-span (adjective)
  • long-range (adjective)
  • long-term (adjective)
  • longtime (adjective)
  • low-income families; very low income families
  • multicampus
  • postbaccalaureate, postdoctoral, postdoctorate
  • prelaw
  • premedicine
  • preregistration and preregistered
  • primary care physician
  • quasi-as part of a compound noun, use separately; as adjective, use with hyphen: quasi scholar (noun), quasi-judicial (adj.)
  • student aid program
  • student-athlete
  • tax-deductible
  • turfgrass
  • ultra-spell solid: ultrafine, ultraviolet
  • under-spell solid: underline, underfunded
  • up-to-date
  • workforce, workplace, workstation; but work site
  • X-ray

Off campus, On campus

As adverb, no hyphens; as adjective, hyphens.

  • The two had rented an apartment off campus for the summer.
  • On-campus housing was provided for stranded commuters during the blizzard.

Note: Marywood University's Off Campus Degree Program, a specific program, is always capitalized and is never hyphenated. The abbreviation is OCDP.

Semi

No hyphen is used after semi unless it is connected to a word beginning with i.

  • semiconducting
  • semi-intelligent

Vice president

No hyphen. This is University style.



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