A Quick Hyphen Refresher (as opposed to a quick-hyphen refresher)


For compound adjectives and adverbs you make up yourself, use a hyphen anytime it aids readability or comprehension: a lobster-eating man.

Adverbs ending in ly are the exception. These don't take a hyphen: a happily married couple.

For compound adjectives that already exist, check the dictionary's hyphenation: good-looking.

For nouns, check a dictionary: self-esteem.

For verbs, check a dictionary: fact-check.

Note that it's often the case that the verb form is open while the noun is closed or hyphenated: Five traits make up his personality makeup. On Tuesday, I have to pick up Tom's pick-up from the dealership.

Note that the reigning aesthetic in publishing today leans toward less punctuation, so compounds adjectives that could logically take a hyphen usually don't unless the hyphen is needed.

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