Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Write Right Part Four: High-Priority Hyphenating

The hyphen is a powerful tool that holds the capability to alter a sentence. Likewise, choosing to exclude a hyphen can have the same profound effect on a sentence. Just like most grammar rules, there are a ton of exceptions, exclusions, and special scenarios; however, I intend to give you an operational understanding of when (and when not) to use the hyphen. For clarity’s sake, it’s important to be able to pinpoint the way in which a hyphen changes the overall meaning of the message a writer is trying to convey. Consider the following example.

Bradley cheerfully smiled and returned to the bank teller’s desk to resign his paycheck.

Even though Bradley is returning to the bank teller’s desk in a seemingly great mood, I’m sure that smile is going to turn upside down when he realizes that he just forfeited his check to the bank teller. You see, without a hyphen it’s impossible to know whether Bradley intended to re-sign his check or resign (submit or give up) his check to the teller. If Bradley is going to maintain that smile, he would most likely be re-signing the check.

Carrie sweated profusely after the high-intensity workout.

The example above denotes the more common usage of hyphenating which occurs when using two adjectives as one idea before a noun. It is extremely important that the two adjectives are working together to illustrate the same concept. The workout was both high and intense. If the high-intensity had been positioned somewhere different in the sentence, perhaps after the noun workout, a hyphen would usually not be used.

There are other cases where a hyphen would almost always be used. Fractions and numbers used as words such as: three-fifths, two-thirds, etc. are always hyphenated. Common compound words and phrases containing words such as: half, part, ex, self, and/or all, usually require a hyphen. Of course there are always special exceptions and in those special cases Rasilliant Enterprises is here with a readily available answer for you. Remember, don’t let your writing be mangled by simple mistakes that can be easily avoided.