Hyphenate for Clarity


Post-High-School Students: Do you have the notes from yesterday's lecture? Post-High School Students: Dude...

This idea pretty much came from The Elephants of Style, and I’m going to quote it for another funny example:

I once saw somebody write of [Nancy Reagan]’s visit to an anti-child abuse center. (It’s one thing to be anti-child, but to open abuse centers?)

If two or more words are acting as an adjective before a noun, use hyphens. If they come after the noun, leave them out. So you might say:

That article was well written.
That was a well-written article.

There are many other uses for hyphens if you’d like to read more.

Update: My mom sent me this clipping from the Chicago Tribune (from 3/4/12, just over a week after I posted this comic. Ironically, it was National Grammar Day):

anti-animal cruelty charity

First abuse centers, now cruelty charities?!

Hyphenation Quiz

Where would you place hyphens in these sentences? Post your answers in the comments!

  1. After he was unable to find a publisher, he self published his memoir.
  2. I dumped a girl because she pronounced it “supposably.” Now she’s my exgirlfriend.
  3. She loves cake, but she’s anti ice cream cake. Is that unnatural?
  4. Although Tobias wasn’t a well known actor, he was given an opportunity to audition for the part.
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