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Compound Adjectives: To Hyphenate or Not to Hyphenate
We all question ourselves in writing and editing as to when we should hyphenate words or leave them as two separate words. And trust me when I say there isn't hard and fast rules to follow much of the time.
First, what is a compound adjective? Adjectives are descriptive words and a compound adjective is when two words make up one adjective, making it a compound adjective.
The rules are different in the UK versus the US. (Go figure, right?)
In the UK, they like hyphens... a lot. So use them. In the US, we're told to use them if it helps the reader by eliminating ambiguity. However, if you are unsure, you should use the hyphen even in the US. Readers will be lenient more often if you use the hyphen than they will if you don't. (Readers are fickle that way.)
So the question is how do you know when to use a hyphen and when not to use one?
Well, use your spellchecker. Use your dictionary. Use your style guide.
(Chicago Manual of Style recommended)
AND.... Use this little 'and' test by mentally putting 'and' between the two words: free and range rooster. Because 'free and range' wouldn't be correct, you need to use the hyphen making it 'free-range rooster.'
"She was driving a beautiful maroon car." Both beautiful car and maroon car is correct, thus no hyphen.
"We stayed in a high class hotel." [X] This should read, "We stayed in a high-class hotel." Yes, it could be a 'high' hotel, but it isn't the correct meaning here.
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Rogena Mitchell-Jones | RMJ Manuscript Service LLC | www.rogenamitchell.com
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