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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Writing Lesson - The Hyphen

Ok yes, I know, I know... We should have learned this in elementary school. In fact, it's quite possible that I did, and then forgot. But I was having a hard time figuring out if I should hyphenate certain words in my novel, and lucky for me, I came across an article that addressed this specific issue.

So here is the rule: A hyphen is used to join two words that describe an object, when the descriptive words can't be used on their own.

Example: The blood-stained walls
You can't describe the walls as simply blood, or simply stained. Therefore a hyphen is required.

Example #2: The mushy, green peas.
Both words can describe the peas on their own, therefore no hyphen is required.

So for those of you who like little tricks for grammar and punctuation, I hope this comes in handy.


  1. While it took me awhile to figure out how to use the hyphen correctly, I never was able to put rules for its use into precise terms. That's a good way to think about it though, thanks :)

  2. Gee, thanks, you're a life-saver (did I do that right?)...

    I just can't figure out when to use a hyphen and when to just leave it, which is especially confusing since the dictionary usually gives different spelling options...

  3. Glad I could help Diego!
    Stories, the word lifesaver is all one word. But the trick is right. I (the subject) can't be described with just the words "life" or "saver", so if it wasn't already a word on its own, it would need a hyphen.
    For myself, if Microsoft Word doesn't like the word put together, I'll hyphenate it. So if lifesaver was unacceptable, I would have added the hyphen:)

  4. Excellent post. I have been concerned I was abusing the hyphen in some of my current writing.