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Hyphens1. Use a hyphen with compound adjectives. A compound adjective is formed when two or more adjectives work together to modify the same noun. These terms should be hyphenated to avoid confusion or ambiguity.
Incorrect: The black and blue mark suggested that he had been involved in an altercation.
Correct: The black-and-blue mark suggested that he had been involved in an altercation.
Incorrect: Her fifteen minute presentation proved decisive in the outcome of the case.
Correct: Her fifteen-minute presentation proved decisive in the outcome of the case.
2. Do not use a hyphen after an adverb. Combining an adverb (usually a word ending in "ly") and an adjective does not create a compound adjective. No hyphen is required because it is already clear that the adverb modifies the adjective rather than any subsequent term.
Incorrect: The remarkably-hot day turned into a remarkably-long week.
Correct: The remarkably hot day turned into a remarkably long week.
3. Do not use a hyphen when the compound modifier appears after the noun it modifies.
Incorrect: The language, which was gender-neutral, impressed the judge and her law clerks.
Correct: The language, which was gender neutral, impressed the judge and her law clerks.
Also Correct:The gender-neutral language impressed the judge and her law clerks.
4. Do not hyphenate proper names or titles. You should not place a hyphen in a compound adjective if the adjectives are capitalized, such as when they are part of a title.
Correct: His book was entitled, "Gender Neutral Language in English Usage," and it revolutionized the way people think about sex roles.However: His book on gender-neutral language revolutionized the way people think about sex roles.Correct: The students were participants in Chicago-Kent's vaunted Legal Research and Writing Program.Also Correct:The student decided to attend a school with a good legal-research-and-writing program. Note that in this example, the reference is to a type of program, rather than a specific program, and so the use of hyphens is proper.
5. If it is unavoidable, you may use a hyphen to divide a word at the end of a line of text. However, it is better to place the whole word on one line if that approach would not result in leaving a large space. If you need to use a hyphen, be sure to use it after a complete syllable, never in the middle of a syllable. You may want to check a dictionary for the proper syllable breakdown. (Please also note that one should never split a word at the end of a page; if necessary, move the entire word to the top of the next page.)
Undesirable:Students of all backgrounds often underestimate the time needed to cre-
ate a professional memorandum or brief.
Better:Students of all backgrounds often underestimate the time needed to
create a professional memorandum or brief.
Undesirable:The longest word listed in her new dictionary was
Better:The longest word listed in her new dictionary was antidisestablish-
to your browser to complete the exercise.