When to Hyphenate Prefixes


There’s nothing wrong with hyphenating “multi-cultural.” There’s nothing wrong with not hyphenating “multicultural.” There’s nothing wrong with doing it both ways in a single document.

But it’s very wrong to do it both ways in a single document you’re trying to pass off as well-polished writing.

In the world of professional publishing, there’s one thing that’s more wrong than being wrong: being inconsistent. And perhaps no element of editing creates more opportunities for inconsistency than prefixes.

Some prefixes use hyphens to attach to a word. Some don’t. Some work better with an en dash than a hyphen. Many have strict rules on whether to hyphenate them. Others leave it at your discretion. Still others are subject to rules that change depending on which editing style you want to follow. Here are some tips for navigating these waters.

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