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):
First abuse centers, now cruelty charities?!
Where would you place hyphens in these sentences? Post your answers in the comments!
- After he was unable to find a publisher, he self published his memoir.
- I dumped a girl because she pronounced it “supposably.” Now she’s my exgirlfriend.
- She loves cake, but she’s anti ice cream cake. Is that unnatural?
- Although Tobias wasn’t a well known actor, he was given an opportunity to audition for the part.
Direct link for embedding: http://www.grammarcomic.com/files/grammar-block-008-hyphenation.jpg