Sign Up For Our Free Grammar E-Newsletter

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.

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


16 Comments

16 Responses to “Hyphens with the Prefix re

  1. Jerry Everett says:

    Can anyone help us solve a raging debate at our company relating to hyphens?

    Do we use toll free conference calling OR toll-free conference calling?

    …Jerry

  2. Harriet says:

    So useful, thanks!

  3. Hannah says:

    What about rerule? Is that even a word? or should it be Re-Rule? having a fight in scrabble!

    Thanks

  4. Margaret says:

    I do not agree with the given answer on number 9 in the quiz: reinjured vs. re-injured. Upon initially reading the word “reinjured”, it COULD be misconstrued as “rein”; I think here, it is appropriate to put the hyphen after “re-”.

    • Jane says:

      Even if misconstrued as “rein,” it still would not form another word. Reinjured is a valid word which you can find listed as a “related form” to injure on Dictionary.com as well as in The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

  5. michael says:

    Is it reintegration or re-integration? If it’s hyphenated, is the ‘i’ capitalized or not?

  6. Tan Beng Hoon says:

    Dear Ms Jane,
    Would you be able to help clarify the following :
    1.reopen or re-open.
    2.recontract or re-contract.
    3.rehire or re-hire.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank you.

    • Jane says:

      Use the hyphen with the prefix re only when re means again and omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word. Since there is no possible confusion, a hyphen is not necessary in any of your words.

  7. Renee Tollison says:

    re-x-raying or re-xraying or re x-raying?

    I’m a court reporter and we get it all. LOL

    • Jane says:

      We recommend hyphenating prefixes any time they might be distracting or confusing without the hyphen. Some sources prefer a capital X. Therefore, you may write “re-x-raying.” or “re-X-raying.” “X-ray again” might be an even better choice of words if rewriting is an option.

  8. Araz says:

    Dear Jane,

    Could you help me check if my use of ‘re’ is correct in this sentence?

    “The sequential approach to direction setting, re-engineering operations, rewriting job descriptions, competences and roles, training people, and communicating changes internally and externally carries the risk of being slow, sterile and rigid.”

    It is particularly re-engineering and rewriting.

    Thank you,
    Araz

Leave a Reply