Hyphen - Usage in English

Usage in English

For Wikipedia's own standards for hyphen usage, see Wikipedia:Manual of Style#Hyphens

Hyphens are mostly used to break single words into parts, or to join ordinarily separate words into single words. Spaces should not be placed between a hyphen and either of the words it connects except when using a suspended or "hanging" hyphen (e.g. nineteenth- and twentieth‑century writers).

A definitive collection of hyphenation rules does not exist; rather, different manuals of style prescribe different usage guidelines. The rules of style that apply to dashes and hyphens have evolved to support ease of reading in complex constructions; editors often accept deviations from them that will support, rather than hinder, ease of reading.

The use of the hyphen in English compound nouns and verbs has, in general, been steadily declining. Compounds that might once have been hyphenated are increasingly left with spaces or are combined into one word. In 2007, the sixth edition of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary removed the hyphens from 16 000 entries, such as fig-leaf (now fig leaf), pot-belly (now pot belly) and pigeon-hole (now pigeonhole). The advent of the Internet and the increasing prevalence of computer technology have given rise to a subset of common nouns that may have been hyphenated in the past (e.g. "toolbar", "hyperlink", "pastebin").

Despite decreased use, hyphenation remains the norm in certain compound modifier constructions and, amongst some authors, with certain prefixes (see below). Hyphenation is also routinely used to avoid unsightly spacing in justified texts (for example, in newspaper columns).

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