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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Compound Words–When To Hyphenate

Today’s post is about compound words. We use them every day, yet not many of us use them correctly. Too often, I see writers just cramming words together or sticking hyphens where they don’t belong. So let me give you a short and simple explanation of how to use them correctly. Hopefully…

Compound words, by definition, are two or more words put together to form a new word or a new meaning. There are three categories of compound words: closed, open, and hyphenated. Let me explain each of them in detail and show examples.

Closed Compounds are when words are joined together to make a new one such as: keyboard, crosswalk, everything, upside, moonlight, coordinate, multicultural, etc.

Open Compounds have a space in between them but read together as a word to form a new meaning such as: middle class, half sister, post office, real estate, etc.

Hyphenated Compounds are obviously words that are connected by hyphens such as: mother-in-law, editor-in-chief, well-being, high-priced, etc.

Okay, here’s where it gets tricky. It’s the darn hyphen part. Hyphenate when words form an adjective that precedes a noun (what is being modified) but not when it follows a noun. Do not hyphenate words ending in “ly.” Let me show you examples of both.

Rick was a well-respected teacher. (A compound modifier before a noun.)
Rick was well respected. (Comes after a noun, so no hyphen)

They have highly trained employees. (“ly” word)
Their employees are highly trained. (See? No hyphens either way.)

I could go on and on about all the exceptions or list every example, but I won’t. That’s what the dictionary is for. When in doubt, look it up for the correct spelling and correct use. Remember, words like well being can be used as well being or well-being. No one is an expert on this stuff unless one is an editor and/or an English teacher. So…hire an editor…if you’re not perfect but you want your writing to be. Check out my Editor Website Thanks for visiting my blog. Happy writing~