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Hyphens are used to JOIN words and to SPLIT words.


Because the English language continues to develop, new words are constantly being created and gaining currency.  Often, rather than invent a completely new combination of letters, new words are made by combining (parts of) existing words.






Such "join-words" may eventually, by common usage, become accepted as part and parcel of the language and may lose the hyphen.



postmortem (although post-mortem is still in use)

nonverbal (although non-verbal is still in use)


A recent dictionary is essential for reference.


It should not normally be necessary to invent such "join-words", though it may help to clarify what you mean to say - rather than using complex (and perhaps clumsy) phrases.


Hyphens are also used to indicate that a word has been SPLIT, usually because it will not fit into the space available at the end of a line.  Words that are divided in this way should be divided at the end of a syllable.  The hyphen remains attached to the first part of the word in order to indicate to the reader that there is more to follow.  (Word-processing software, which makes it possible to justify text, may herald the demise of this practice.)




Introduction - Capital letters - Full stops - Question Marks - Exclamation marks - Abbreviations - Contractions - Commas - Speech marks (Quotation marks - Inverted comas) - Possessive apostrophes - Colons - Semi-colons - Brackets - Hyphens - Dashes - Obliques (slashes)