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November 2012 Volume 8 Issue 11

The Write Stuff

November 2012  Volume 8 Issue 11

The Poor, Underused Hyphen


Can you spot what all the following phrases have in common?

  • broad based community support
  • award winning architecture firm
  • holiday themed posts
  • well prepared social media calendar
  • third party endorsements
  • customer focused forum
  • brand specific pages
  • self directed IRAs
  • four time champion
  • camera ready artwork

Perhaps I gave it away in the title–but give yourself a gold star anyway if you said they each lack a hyphen: broad-based, award-winning, holiday-themed, well-prepared, third-party, customer-focused, brand-specific, self-directed, four-time and camera-ready. I generated this list as I edited clients’ work–and was surprised it took me just a few days to find 10 examples of missing hyphens.


These example phrases are compound adjectives, but you don’t have to worry about digging into your (perhaps nonexistent) memories from high school English to figure out when hyphens are needed; simply study the words. If you realize they’re a “couple,” join them with a hyphen.


Since few things are clean and simple in our language, here’s a wrinkle to tuck away in  your brain where you store information that may someday be of use:


When the first word of a compound adjective ends in -ly, don’t use a hyphen. That means phrases like scientifically validated behavior, nationally acclaimed landscape architect, privately held company and highly respected CFO are correct as written here.

Happy hyphenating (or not)!

What are your pet peeves? Send them to me, and perhaps you’ll see them in a future issue of The Write Stuff.


Do you know businesses that could benefit from my writing or editing expertise? I’ll treat your referrals like gold and you’ll be viewed as a superstar for making the introduction. 619-291-4645


©2018 Adrienne Moch Writing & Editing