Follow Webster’s New World College Dictionary. Hyphenate if not listed there.
Combinations without a hyphen: half brother, half dollar, half note
Combinations that include a hyphen: half-baked, half-hour, half-life
Combinations that are one word: halfback, halfhearted, halftime
historical periods and events
See capitalization, historical periods and events.
A historic event is an important occurrence. Any occurrence in the past is a historical event.
Use a comma to set off an individual’s hometown when it is placed in apposition to a name, whether "of" is used or not: Chuck Luce, of Port Chester, N.Y.; Ross Mulhausen, New Orleans.
All references to honorary degrees should specify that the degree was honorary. Do not use Dr. before the name of an individual whose only doctorate is honorary. When indicating honorary degrees after a name, use "Hon." followed by the class year.
Jane Smith ’85 received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Puget Sound in 1990.
Jane Smith ’85, Hon.’90 returned to campus for Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Jane Smith ’85, Hon.’90 is no relation to John Smith Hon.’72.
"Hopefully" means "in a hopeful manner." Do not use it to mean "it is hoped," "let us hope," or "I hope." Incorrect: Hopefully we will have funding in place soon. Correct: We hope to have funding in place soon.
The rules in prefixes apply, but in general, no hyphen: hyperactive, hypercritical.
Note: Hyphenation sometimes must be determined on a word-by-word basis. Many words that used to be hyphenated, such as "goodbye," now have preferred spellings without the hyphen. If you plan to use a hyphenated word, it is always a good idea to check it first in this guide and in Webster’s New World College Dictionary.
- compound modifiers
Generally speaking words become hyphenated when they are made into compound modifiers—two or more words that express a single concept. Typically compound modifiers immediately precede the noun they modify:
These same modifiers are not hyphenated when they fall after the noun they modify in the sentence:
The hotel we stayed in was top notch.
We visited a church with architecture from the 14th century.
Many residents of this community are Japanese American.
- dual heritage
In general when indicating dual heritage with a compound modifier, hyphenate (African-American student, Mexican-American tradition); do not hyphenate in other cases (Sixteen percent of the freshman class is African American.)
- en dash vs. em dash
- to show range
To separate a range of numbers (12–24), use an en dash, which is roughly the width of a capital “N,” slightly longer than a hyphen and shorter than an em dash. Do not include spaces before or after the en dash. On a Macintosh computer, create using “Option” plus “dash”; on a PC create using <Alt> plus the numbers 0150 on the right-side number pad.
- to set text apart
To set off interruptions in text (The girls waited—wiggling in their seats—for the movie to begin.), use an em dash, which is roughly the width of a capital “M,” twice the size of a hyphen and slightly longer than an en dash. Do not include spaces before or after the em dash. On a Macintosh computer, create using “Option” + “shift” + “dash”; on a PC create using <Alt> + "0151" on the right-side number pad.
Note: When using Microsoft Word, from the “Insert” drop-down menu, chose “Symbol” then “Special Characters” to insert either an en dash or em dash into the body of your text.
- to show range
Generally do not hyphenate when using a prefix with a word starting with a consonant. Three rules are constant, though they yield some exceptions to first-listed spellings in Webster’s New World College Dictionary:
- Except for cooperate and coordinate, use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel: pre-empt
- Use a hyphen if the word that follows is capitalized: mid-April
- Use a hyphen to join doubled prefixes: sub-subparagraph
commonly used (and misused) prefixes
Retain the hyphen when forming nouns, adjectives, and verbs that indicate occupation or status: co-author, co-chair, co host. Use no hyphen in other combinations: coeducational, coexist, cocurricular.
No hyphen unless a capitalized word follows: mid-Atlantic, midsemester. But use a hyphen when mid- precedes a figure: mid-30s, mid-19th century.
The rules of prefixes apply, but in general no hyphen when forming a compound that does not have special meaning and can be understood if "not" is used before the base word. Use a hyphen, however, before proper nouns or in awkward combinations, such as non-nuclear.
The rules of prefixes apply. The following exceptions to first-listed spellings in Webster’s New World College Dictionary are based on the general rule that a hyphen is used if a prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel: pre-election, pre-eminent, pre-empt, pre-establish, pre-exist. Otherwise, follow Webster’s New World College Dictionary, hyphenating if not listed there.
See separate listings for commonly used suffixes in the body of this style guide, or:
- Follow Webster’s New World College Dictionary for words not listed in the style guide.
- If a word combination is not listed in Webster’s New World College Dictionary, use two words for the verb form; hyphenate any noun or adjective forms
- suspensive (multiple) hyphenation
The form: The 18- and 19-year olds attend Orientation Week activities.