Month: March 2018

Hyphen-Nation

It’s easy to become confused over the proper use of the humble hyphen. The main purpose of which is to join two (or more) words together, thereby making them a single compound word with its own meaning. As in: • an ex-President is a former President. • a co-director works with another director. The absence of a hyphen can also lead to misunderstanding: • I must re-cover the sofa (with new material). • I must recover the sofa (from the person I lent it to). • After his time in prison, he was a reformed character (no longer a criminal). • They re-formed the band and played in the garage (started up again). Prefixes like co- and pre- should have a hyphen when next to a word beginning with the same vowel, as in: co-ordinate, pre-empt. Hyphens can contribute considerably to clarity, as in: You must read two hundred odd pages a day which gives the impression you are only to read the odd pages, hence the hyphen in: You must read two hundred-odd pages …