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Use a hyphen to divide a word at the end of a line.

A hyphen (-) tells a reader that a word you began on one line will continue on the next line. Hyphens should be used only between the syllables of a word.

  • After playing for an hour, the chess players reached a stale-
    . [Stalemate divides into two syllables, stale-mate. The hyphen belongs between the two syllables.]



Do not hyphenate a word that has only one syllable. Also, do not leave a letter standing alone when you divide a word.

  • When we arrived, the play was just a-
    bout to start. [The word about divides into two syllables, a-bout. However, the a by itself is awkward.] 
  • When we arrived, the play was just
    about to start. [The whole word about goes on the second line because it cannot be divided.]
If you aren’t sure whether a word is two or more syllables, check a dictionary. Dictionaries show exactly where words divide into syllables.

Some words are always hyphenated. Use hyphens with the following: compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine; fractions used as modifiers; the prefixes ex–, self–, all–, and great–; the suffixes –elect and –free; prefixes before proper nouns and adjectives; and compound adjectives that precede the nouns they modify.

  • Pedro planted twenty-six trees in the park. [Twenty-six is a compound number.] 
  • The recipe calls for one-third cup of chopped chives. [The fraction one-third is used to modify cup.]
  • Has Kimi been officially named treasurer-elect for next year? [Use a hyphen with the suffix –elect.] 
  • Most pre-Elizabethan playwrights have been overshadowed by Shakespeare. [The prefix pre– is hyphenated before a proper adjective.] 
  • These sturdy, well-insulated houses should be inexpensive to maintain. [The compound adjective is hyphenated because it comes before the word it modifies.]


Hyphens Note

Do not use a hyphen if one of the modifiers before a noun ends in –ly

  • These fully insulated houses should be inexpensive to maintain. [The first modifier ends in –ly, so no hyphen is needed.]
Mr. ‏El-Sayed Ramadan ‎ ‎


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