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    Using Punctuation: Hyphen to Make a Compound Adjective

    Monday, April 18, 2011

    A hyphen can be used to join two or more words that form a single adjective (a single grammatical unit) before a noun. Do not hyphenate the words forming the adjective when they follow the noun.

    Only double-insulated wire should be used in this situation.
    Only wire that is double insulated should be used in this situation.

    Note: Do not use a hyphen when the first of these words is an adverb ending in ly or when a letter or number ends the grammatical unit.

    freshly painted conference room (adverb ending in ly)
    grade A milk (the letter A is the final element)

    Also Note: When such a group of words is used as a noun, it is usually not hyphenated.

    She usually takes a middle-of-the-road position. (adjective)
    He usually takes the middle of the road. (noun)

    For more business-writing tips, browse our blog or use the search box atop the page. Or purchase our handy Proofreader's Guide ebook or Write for Business handbook.