The hyphen's main job is to link two or more words that function together as a noun or a modifier (compound words)

It's also useful in a variety of other ways and helps to fix situations that are otherwise confusing or ambiguous, such as:
- splitting words at the end of a line or
- clarifying punctuation

But wait—there's more! You should also call on the reliable ol' hyphen to:
- express numbers between 21 and 99: thirty-three
- join a prefix to a word that requires capitalization: pro-American
- join a single letter to a word: x-ray
- join the prefixes ex-, self-, all-, and sometimes cross- to a word: self-help

In addition to its typical tasks, this handyman can even work to create emphasis and effect, like when your mom hired that miracle worker to turn your bland bathroom into a zebra-print-meets-cheetah-print paradise. See what that hyphen did there? Magic.



"My mother-in-law doesn't know that the reindeer sweater she loaned me is for my office's ugly Christmas sweater party."

We won't tell. We will, however, tell you that since mother, in, and law work as a unit to form a compound noun here, you should use hyphens to connect them

"Barry started the season on the B-team, but by the playoffs he was the Chargers' starting point guard."

Way to go, Barry. In this example, we use a hyphen to join the letter B to the word team because we have championship-level grammar skills.

"On their honeymoon, Sylvester and John stayed at an all-inclusive, five-star resort with an infinity pool, ocean view, and their own private butler named Fitzwilliam."

In this swanky sentence, all-inclusive is hyphenated because all is one of those prefixes that requires a hyphen to join it to a word. Five-star is hyphenated because five and star function as a single modifier to describe the ritzy resort.


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