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Center For Academic Excellence

CAE | Hyphens

Hyphens show up every time you make a left-hand turn, wear a MUSC T-shirt, buy gasoline at a self-service station, visit a writing center for one-on-one tutoring, worry about a long-term relationship, listen to hip-hop, or eat Tex-Mex food.

1. Use a hyphen between two and three-word unit modifiers that express a single thought when they precede a noun. Do not hyphenate the modifier when it follows a noun.

Example: I attended a lecture yesterday given by a well-known cardiologist.

2. Use a hyphen between fractions and numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.

Example: Only one-third of the class passed the test.

3. Use a hyphen after the prefixes ex-, self-, all-, and with the suffix -elect. Hyphens are also used with all prefixes before proper nouns and adjectives.

Example: My father is a self-employed dentist.

4. Check with a dictionary to be certain when to use a hyphen with compound nouns.

Some compound nouns are one word, some are separate words, and some require hyphens. Consult a dictionary to be sure.

Developed by
Jennie Ariail, Ph.D. - Director
Tom Waldrep, Ph.D. - Director (retired)

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