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When You Don’t Want to Hyphenate

Writers often hyphenate when they aren’t supposed to. It always seems to make sense that if you have two words that sound like they’re connected, you should stick a hyphen between them. But not so. Here are some word combinations that are usually open:

Proper nouns and adjectives relating to geography or nationality, unless the first term is a prefix:

  • Chinese Americans, North Central region, African American, African American president

But you would write: US-Mexico border, Spanish-American organizations.

Chemical terms:

  • sodium chloride, sodium chloride solution

Foreign phrases—open unless hyphenated in the original language. Foreign phrases and words are also italicized:

  • A priori, in vitro fertilization, but vis-à-vis for clarity and meaning. (The actual meaning is face-to-face, also hyphenated.)

Numbers and abbreviations:

  • 25 mi. trip, 3 oz. cup, 5K race

Numbers and percentages:

  • 75 percent, 4.6 percent

Noun and numeral or enumerator:

  • Type 2 diabetes, size 12 font, page 1 placement

So if you’re writing a popular paranormal novel, you might be writing about an American Martian Type 4 undead vampire zombie. No hyphens needed!

Each and Every Way to Get Confused

The words each and every are used so interchangeably, they seem like they mean the same things. But they don’t.

Grammarians call them quantifiers, which is just a highfalutin word that means “number” or “quantity.” Each and every go with singular nouns and are used to indicate quantity. But neither indicates a specific number. So while their meanings are similar, the words are not always interchangeable.

Use each when you’re referring to the persons or items in a group individually; use every when you consider the group as a unit.

  • Each member of the team received a ribbon for participating.
  • Every ribbon was green.

Use each when there are two persons or items; use every for groups of three or more.

  • Two members of the team were named as scholar-athletes. Each rejoiced at the honor.
  • Every team member congratulated them.

Continue Reading…

More Handy Hyphenation Rules

I’ve presented a number of posts on hyphenation, so if this is a subject that you get stuck on, check out previous posts by putting “hyphenation” in the search bar at the top of the page.

It’s good to know that in some cases the meaning of a word changes if you hyphenate it. Take a look at these pairs of words:

  • rebound: to spring back or recover; re-bound: to tie again (retie)
  • recollect: remember; re-collect: collect again (regather)
  • recover: heal, restore; re-cover: to cover something again
  • recreate: to engage in recreation; re-create: to create again

Notice that this is an issue with words that begin with the prefix re. Continue Reading…