Website Writing Guide

Punctuation

Hyphens

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About hyphens

Hyphens for compound nouns, adjectives or verbs

Hyphens for clarity

 

About hyphens

Hyphens, like other punctuation devices, are important in improving clarity of expression. Given that users scan content on Web pages, it is important to use all techniques at your disposal to make the meaning clear on the first reading.

For example, which of the two testimonials below would you prefer if your were the presenter of the workshop?

  • This workshop has given me confidence that one day workshops can be enjoyable.
  • This workshop has given me confidence that one-day workshops can be enjoyable.

 

You will find here the most common issues to do with hyphens. For each individual instance where you have a query refer to the Macquarie Dictionary. However, as the Macquarie Dictionary concedes, "In current Australian writing there is considerable variation in the occurrence of the hyphen and majority usage does not reflect clear and consistent principles".

There is a very useful section on hyphens in the Style Manual, Wiley 2002 from which some of the examples below derive.

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Hyphens for compound nouns, adjectives or verbs

When two or more words are used side-by-side as a compound noun, adjective or verb, they should be hyphenated. Be careful that what you hyphenate is, in fact, a compound noun, adjective or verb as the examples below illustrate.

  • Substantial across-government investment in ICT has been made in the past year.
  • Substantial investment in ICT has been made right across government departments this year.
  • Governments are increasingly reliant on ICT to support the day-to-day business of government.
  • All-day parking is available in the CBD at very reasonable prices.
  • You can park all day in the CBD at very reasonable prices.
  • I want to keep you up to date on the situation.
  • I want up-to-date information on the situation.

 

Common compound adjectives, nouns and verbs that require hyphenating:

  • decision-making skills
  • day-to-day business
  • government-owned facilities
  • 50-year-old woman
  • second-storey apartment
  • part-time or full-time positions
  • across-government initiatives
  • owner-driver of the car
  • colour-blind
  • left-hand, right-hand
  • to gift-wrap.

 

Refer to the Macquarie Dictionary for other queries.

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Hyphens for clarity

Some words require a hyphen to make your meaning clear. Here are some examples:

  • We invited 100-odd guests, has en entirely different meaning from, We invited 100 odd guests.
  • We need to recover the data lost when the computer crashed.
  • We will re-cover the books that were damaged in the flood.
  • Rather than resigning, she re-signed for another two-year contract.

 

Other topics in this section

Home Guide | Basic punctuation rules | Lists - bullets, numbers, hyperlinks | Capitals |
Hyphens
| Abbreviations | Web page addresses | Italics | Quotations | Numbers |
Dates and times
| Citing references |

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