Use the most current edition of Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary and the Chicago Manual for entries not covered in this list. One easy way to determine whether to hyphenate or where to break a word is to look it up in the dictionary.
Refer to the Chicago Manual‘s sections about spelling for more examples.
Do not hyphenate compounds preceding or following a noun where the hyphen would be placed after a word ending in ly: highly regarded student; ridiculously long take-home exam; beautifully framed painting.
Hyphenate phrases used as adjectives before a noun.
The proposal was a last-ditch effort at credibility.
The child produced a mile-long list for Santa.
three-mile limit; 100-yard dash; one-inch margin; full-time student; fifteen-week semester; eight-week session; but a 10 percent increase
When a number and unit of measurement are used adjectivally, they should be hyphenated: 12-inch rule; nineteenth-century painter
Hyphenate compounds that use all whether they precede or follow the noun.
I once thought my parents to be all-knowing and all-seeing. Hers is an all-encompassing compassion; she serves without thought of praise or other reward.
Adjectival compounds with fold are spelled solid, unless they are formed with figures.
The professor noticed a threefold increase in class attendance when he started using more videos.
The results indicate an amazing 175-fold decrease in cellular mutation.
Hyphenate “half” compounds whether they precede or follow the noun.
Dirk was only half-awake during the review session.
Gina refused to consider the half-baked scheme.
However, halfhearted and halfway are spelled solid, according to Webster’s Eleventh. If in doubt, check the dictionary.
Any “like” words can be spelled solid.
He had a childlike sense of wonder and enthusiasm that made class really interesting.
“Self” words should be hyphenated.
self-employed; self-serving; self-sufficient
Use a hyphen with all proper nouns andwide: University-wide. Do not hyphenate other wide words: statewide, nationwide, countywide.
“Multi” words are spelled solid unless such a spelling makes for awkward reading.
Words formed with the prefix co should be hyphenated. This is University style, not in line with the Chicago Manual or, in some cases, Webster’s. Using a hyphen between the “co” and the root word makes the word more understandable. Exceptions: coed, coeducational, cooperate.
co-author, co-chair, co-owner, co-founder
compounds preceding a noun
Compounds with well-, ill-, better-, best-, high-, little-, lesser-, low-, etc., are hyphenated when they precede the noun unless the expression carries a modifier: well-known man; he is well known; high-quality work; very high quality work.
Hyphenate grade-point. Avoid abbreviating this, but if you must, use GPA—all caps, no periods.
A general rule is that hyphens link items and dashes separate items.
A hyphen joins words to form compound adjectives or is used to attach certain prefixes or suffixes to words.
The dash that is usually typed as two hyphens (–) is typeset as an em dash (—). It indicates a break in thought and can be used within a sentence to insert a parenthetical phrase. Macintosh users can insert their own em dashes by holding down the shift and option keys and typing a hyphen. Neither a double hyphen nor an em dash should have spaces on either side.
The en dash (–) is used between ranges of numbers or dates, or between adjectival phrases containing two-word concepts (1984–87; pp. 123–34; New York–Dallas flight). To typeset an en dash on a Macintosh computer, hold down the option key and type a hyphen. (On a typewriter, use a hyphen.) En dashes do not have spaces on either side. Do not use an en dash to replace a hyphen.
If you need a detailed description, see the Chicago Manual.
- nondegree-seeking student
one word or two? hyphens or not?
- advanced standing student
- Penn State Harrisburg
- child care
- classwork is one word, but course work is two words
- coed; coeducational
- cross-country (the sport)
- daytime; nighttime
- decision-making process; the process of decision making
- “double” words should hyphenated: double-major
- fifteen-week semester
- full-time—full-time student (adjective),
- he will be working full-time (adverb); part-time
- grade-point average
- health care
- inter—spell solid: intercollege, interorganizational
- Penn State is a land-grant university; Morrill Land Grant Act
- lifelong—adjective (daylong; monthlong; weeklong; yearlong)
- life span (noun); life-span (adjective)
- long-range (adjective)
- long-term (adjective)
- longtime (adjective)
- low-income families; very low income families
- on-site (hyphenate as adjective or adverb)
- postbaccalaureate, postdoctoral, postdoctorate
- preregistration and preregistered
- primary care physician
- quasi—as part of a compound noun, use separately; as adjective,
- use with hyphen: quasi scholar (noun), quasi-judicial (adj.)
- student aid program
- ultra—spell solid: ultrafine, ultraviolet
- under—spell solid: underline, underfunded
- Wilkes-Barre campus; Worthington Scranton campus
- workforce, workplace, workstation; but work site
- Worthington Scranton campus; Wilkes-Barre campus
off campus, on campus
As adverb, no hyphens; as adjective, yes hyphens.
The two had rented an apartment off campus for the summer. On-campus housing was impossible to find during fall semester.
No hyphen is used after semi unless it is connected to a word beginning with i.
No hyphen. This is University style, not Chicago Manual style.
- called—no break
- geog-raphy; geo-graph-i-cal
- pro-cess or proc-ess/pro-ject or proj-ect, depending on
- pronunciation and meaning
Always consult a dictionary (preferably Webster’s Collegiate) if you’re not sure about where to break a word.