The hyphen is a punctuation mark that is sometimes underrated. For some writers, it is only used to form some compound words, so they leave it at that.
Also read Em dash: the regular dash
Let’s look at the uses of the hyphen:
To form compound words
The use of the hyphen in compound adjectives might be a bit tricky. For example, compound adjectives beginning with ‘well’ are generally written without a hyphen after a verb when used alone, but hyphenated before a noun they describe.
- His protruding belly showed he was well fed in prison.
- His protruding belly showed he was a well-fed prisoner.
To indicate breaking of same word between a line and the next.
- The manager was happy with the professional foot-
- baller who just joined the club.
Note: Split a word in a way that is not misleading, e.g. atten-tion not atte-ntion, lea-gue not leagu-e.
To join words and prefixes.
To sometimes (in British English) separate a prefix ending with a vowel from another word with the same vowel.
To write compound numbers (21 to 99).
To write age or number.
- Her two-year-old son.
- A one-million-man match.
- A group of ten-year-olds.
To represent a common second element in a list, except in the last item.
- We could not ascertain the percentage, so we arranged them in two-, three-, and fourfold.