20 Nov

Hyphens, in common with all punctuation, exist to make copy easier to understand.

I saw a sign on a building site today, “Mini Crane Hire Company Ltd”. Now is that a small company that hires cranes, or is it a company that hires small cranes? Undoubtedly the later (few companies would want to admit to being small, and there was a small crane right under the sign!) The addition of a hyphen – Mini-crane Hire Company Ltd – would have made it perfectly clear.

In addition to being used to avoid this type of ambiguity, use hyphens:
in adjectives formed from two or more words, for example, left-wing parties, public-sector pensions, 20-year-old bride;
in adverbs that are linked with another word to create an adjective – ill-equipped revolutionaries, much-liked lecturer, well-established business (as a general rule, however, do not add a hyphen when the adverb ends -ly – poorly equipped revolutionaries, genuinely liked lecturer);
in nouns formed from prepositional verbs, for example, buy-out, start-up, round-up;
in quarters of the compass, for example, north-east, south-east, north-west; and
in some titles, for example, vice-president, field-marshal, secretary-general.

Today’s picture

On a recent visit to New York, I saw this sign outside a church coffee shop on Fifth Avenue. I thought it was clever.






One Response to “Hyphens”


  1. Hyphens | alswordsnpictures - November 20, 2013

    […] Hyphens. […]

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