Saturday 8 June 2013

Hyphenation Woes.

Hyphen rules are about as meddlesome as comma rules.---meaning they are very, very meddlesome.

Most rules about hyphenating have to do with modifying a noun (the adjective or compound adjective before the noun).

Many words we tend to hyphenate could be one closed-up word, so it is always best to check The Chicago Manual of Style Hyphenation Table::

Readability is the main purpose for using the hyphen, and hyphens are used to show structure and pronunciation, Here are a few of the rules:

- No need to hyphenate proper nouns (North America) or ly + adjective compounds before nouns.

                     Example: That is a wonderfully groomed dragon you have there.

- When adjective compounds come after the noun, hyphenation is usually unnecessary.

                      Example: The blue-eyed dragon becomes: The dragon is blue eyed.

- And even for compounds that are hyphenated in the dictionary, such as: ill-humored and well-read---they don’t need to be hyphenated after the noun.

                      Example: That dragon was certainly ill humored.

- Participle (a verbal that functions as an adjective) constructions are hyphenated before but not after the noun.

            Example:: the fire-breathing methods becomes: the methods of fire breathing..

But, age terms should be hyphenated in both noun and adjective forms, except in the last two examples.


The three-year-old dragon

A ninety-nine-year-old dragon king

The dragon king's subjects of seven-year-olds


The dragon prince was nine years old

When he was nine years of age

So, now that we know some of the meddlesome hyphenation rules, lets have a care-free writing session or, a writing session that is care free.

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Illustration by Samantha Kickingbird

copyright, Diane Mae Robinson, 2013


  1. Hyphens make me crazy. I never know for sure if I should or should not hyphenate. The nine-year-old and nine years old seems so simple. Why is this stuff so hard?

    What is it with those that made up the English language and all these rules? Did they despise the people who would be using this? Really, what did I ever do to these people? Why? Oh, why?

    What did I do to merit threw and through? Seriously, what fire-breathing dod made up these crazy rules? Gives me headaches. Thanks for explaining all this nonsensical rules.

  2. Hey, don't blame the dragons. The English rules were all made up before their time--probably cavemen with their meaningful little drawings that we are left to decipher.