When should I use a hyphen between two words?
A hyphen is a bit of punctuation used to join two (or more) different words. There are 4 situations in which you should use a hyphen between two words:
1) In numbers between 21 and 99 (twenty-one)
2) With some prefixes (self-motivated)
3) Between many compound words (life-size)
4) For clarity (de-ice)
When you use two words together as a single thought describing or modifying a noun and you put them before the noun, you should hyphenate them. For example:
- there's off-street parking here
- chocolate-covered raisins
- this is a family-owned business
- small-town charm
You also use hyphens between two words if they belong to the following categories:
Numbers 21 through 99
You need a hyphen when writing out numbers twenty-one and ninety-nine, and everything between.
- Place your order pre-Christmas to enjoy our discount.
- There's an enormous problem with under-representation of minority groups.
We always need hyphens with the prefixes anti- and self-:
- I'm a self-motivated person.
- Move in an anti-clockwise direction.
Hyphens can be used to clarify confusing or awkward combinations, like shell-like or de-ice.