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Hyphens with Numbers

Should you write 13-feet or 13 feet? Here is the rule: when you’re combining two or more words to form a compound adjective in front of a noun, put hyphens between these words.

Examples:
Lara handed me a 15-foot pole.
An eighteen-inch monitor is too big for my desk.
Emergency room nurses work 12-hour shifts.
Anthony swung his five-pound hammer.

In the above sentences, the measurements are compound adjectives describing nouns.

When numbers are not used as compound adjectives preceding nouns, don’t use a hyphen. (But remember, all two-word numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine must be hyphenated in all cases.)

Examples:
Suzanne won the race by a solid 15 feet.
The room was 17 feet long.
Twelve hours later, he was exhausted.
Anthony’s hammer weighs five pounds.

To learn more about hyphens, click here.

Pop Quiz

Correct or incorrect?

1. Stella had her hair cut six-inches last week.

2. Her party shoes had three inch heels.

3. Can you lend me your five-foot tape measure?

4. I am 5-feet-2-inches in my bare feet.

5. The water level rose 10-inches in just three hours.

Pop Quiz Answers

1. Stella had her hair cut six inches last week.

2. Her party shoes had three-inch heels.

3. Can you lend me your five-foot tape measure? (Correct)

4. I am 5 feet 2 inches in my bare feet.

5. The water level rose 10 inches in just three hours.

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Posted on Tuesday, July 27, 2010, at 10:45 am


Hyphens with the Prefix re

Many of us find hyphens confusing. The prefix re can make hyphenating even more of a head-scratching experience. However, there is really only one rule that you need to learn to determine when to hyphenate with re.

Rule: Use the hyphen with the prefix re only when re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word.

Example: Will she recover from her illness?
Re does not mean again so no hyphen.

Example: I have re-covered the sofa twice.
Re does mean again AND omitting the hyphen would have caused confusion with another word so hyphenate.

Example: The stamps have been reissued.
Re means again but would not cause confusion with another word so no hyphen.

Example: I must re-press the shirt.
Re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word so hyphenate.

 

Pop Quiz

Select the correct answer:
1A. Please call the restaurant to reserve a table.
1B. Please call the restaurant to re-serve a table.
1C. Please call the restaurant to re serve a table.

2A. I resent the file to you last night.
2B. I re-sent the file to you last night.
2C. I re sent the file to you last night.

3A. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can resign them.
3B. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can re-sign them.
3C. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can re sign them.

Answers:
1A. Please call the restaurant to reserve a table.
2B. I re-sent the file to you last night.
3B. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can re-sign them.

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Posted on Tuesday, March 30, 2010, at 9:06 am


Hyphens with Common Prefixes

Should we use a hyphen with a common prefix such as non or un? For example, is it non-alcoholic beverages or nonalcoholic beverages?
Generally, with common prefixes, you do not need to use a hyphen unless it would avoid possible confusion.  Therefore, most writers would write nonalcoholic beverages.

Examples: uninviting
uninterested
noncompetitive
preexisting (some writers would write pre-existing)
pretest
posttest (some writers would write post-test)
Exception: As the above examples suggest, when adding a prefix creates a double vowel or double consonant, many writers use a hyphen.
Examples: ultra-ambitious
non-native

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Posted on Tuesday, March 16, 2010, at 9:09 am


Numbers as Adjectives

A subscriber recently wrote in with a question that’s a good followup to last week’s Tip of the Week, Writing Numbers:
“When are hyphens used with numbers? Is it 13 feet or 13-feet; 12 hours or 12-hours?”

Rule: Generally, hyphenate between two or more adjectives when they come before a noun and act as a single idea.

This rule can also be applied when a number and a measurement unit taken together form an adjective, that is, when they describe another object.

Examples:
A 22-inch monitor is too big for my desk.
Nurses work 12-hour shifts.
Anthony swung his five-pound hammer.
In the previous sentences, the measurements, such as 22-inch, describe specific objects, such as monitor.

When measurements are not acting as adjectives, hyphens are not needed.

Examples:
Suzanne won the race by 25 yards.
Twelve hours later, she was exhausted.
Anthony’s hammer weighs five pounds.

Pop Quiz: Choose A or B.

1. A. I can’t believe she wrote a 33-page treatise on how to screw in a light bulb.
1. B. I can’t believe she wrote a 33 page treatise on how to screw in a light bulb.

2. A. I can’t believe she wrote 33-pages on how to screw in a light bulb.
2. B. I can’t believe she wrote 33 pages on how to screw in a light bulb.

3. A. Harold found a 110-year-old book at the flea market.
3. B. Harold found a 110 year old book at the flea market.

4. A. Harold found a book that must have been 110-years-old at the flea market.
4. B. Harold found a book that must have been 110 years old at the flea market.

Answers

1. A.
2. B.
3. A.
4. B.

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Posted on Thursday, March 5, 2009, at 4:07 pm