Wednesday, 18 January 2012

How to Hyphenate Words

The Oxford English Dictionary's October newsletter contained a useful little 'how to' on the rules for hyphenation.
  1. We DON'T link 'phrasal verbs' using a hyphen. Phrasal verbs are verbs made up of a main verb together with an adverb or a preposition (or both). The meaning is usually not obvious from the individual meanings of the words. For example "I made up my tie "; 'made' and 'up' forms the phrasal verb.
  2. However, we DO link nouns that are made up of phrasal verbs. You would buy a 'made-up' tie.
  3. We also use hyphens when they clarify our meaning. For example: "There will be extra trains, including more late-night trains" makes sense, whereas "There will be extra trains, including more late night trains" could mean that the night trains were simply late.
So just ask yourself; is this a noun that I am hyphenating? And does it clarify sentence meaning? ... and if in doubt, leave it out :-)

You can read the original OED article at

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