top of page

Better Punctuation: the Hyphen.

Updated: Nov 24

The  punctuation mark the hyphen on a keyboard.
Where to find the Hyphen on your keyboard

Introduction - Better punctuation

In this article, I will explain the use of the punctuation mark, the ‘hyphen’ ( - ).

By applying hyphens correctly, you surely will improve your English writing.

There are some rules associated with its use.

  • So, you use a hyphen with some compound nouns. Compound means ‘more than one part’. These nouns, which are all compound nouns, always require a hyphen:

mother-in-law, father-in-law, brother-in-law, sister-in-law, show-off

  • When you write the complete words for compound numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine use a hyphen.

thirty-six, seventy-four, ninety-eight etc.

  • Use a hyphen after some prefixes such as ex-, mid-, or self-

mid-December, mid-summer, ex-wife, ex-husband, self-control, self-serve, self-assured etc.

  • Use a hyphen whenever you use a compound adjective before a noun. The compound adjective has to express a single thought/idea.

well-known actor, one-way street, twenty-year-old man, seventy-year-old woman.

  • Do not use a hyphen if the compound adjective appears elsewhere in the sentence.

The actor is well known. The street is one way only. She is seventy years old.

Some compound adjectives never take a hyphen, even if they are used before a noun. They are called non-hyphenated compound adjectives.

Here are some examples:

High school senior student World Wide Web real estate agent


I hope this has been useful for you to help you get better punctuation. Next time, I will explain the use of dashes, including em- and -en dashes, and underscores. They are all found on the same keyboard button, as in the photo above.

I hope you will take the time to learn about other useful articles that I've written here about punctuation marks.

Finally, if you enjoyed this article, please share it on your socials with your friends. It's easy: just copy the URL and post.

© Apex English Tutoring Feb 2021 - updated Nov 2023

Man in long-sleeved striped shirt talking on mobile phone

About the Author

Michael Finemore, MA (Research) CQU, TEFL/TESOL Certificate, an experienced English Teacher, is the Owner-Operator of Apex English Tutoring.

41 views0 comments
bottom of page