Use a hyphen (or hyphens) to link the words in a compound adjective. (A compound adjective is a single adjective that is made up of more than one word.) For example:|
What Is a Compound Adjective?A single adjective made up of two or more words is called a compound adjective. The words in a compound adjective can be linked together by a hyphen (or hyphens) to show they are part of the same adjective.
In the UK, your readers will expect you to use hyphens in compound adjectives.
In the US, your readers will be more lenient. The US ruling is: Use a hyphen if it eliminates ambiguity or helps your reader, else don't bother. If you're unsure, use hyphens. You won't be marked down for using hyphens.
The Hyphen Might Be EssentialSometimes, a hyphen is essential to avoid ambiguity. Look at these examples:
Compound Adjectives with NumbersThe easiest compound adjectives to spot are the ones that include numbers. For example:
"24-hour" (This is correct.)
"3-day" (This is correct)
Compound Adjectives Without NumbersLots of compound adjectives do not include numbers. For example:
should be "8-week money-back guarantee"
"Cambridge-based" and "high-speed" (both correct)
Be aware that, quite often, a compound adjective consists of words that would not normally be joined together with a hyphen. For example:
WHAT IS AN ADJECTIVE?
An adjective is a describing word (e.g., red, big, beautiful, contagious).
Read more about adjectives.
WHAT IS A COMPOUND ADJECTIVE?
A single adjective made up of two or more words is called a compound adjective. The words in a compound adjective are linked together by a hyphen (or hyphens) to show that they are part of the same adjective. For example (compound adjectives shaded):
MORE THAN ONE ADJECTIVE OR A COMPOUND ADJECTIVE?
Do not be tempted to string all adjectives together with hyphens. It is common to use more than one adjective to describe something. When you use 2 or more adjectives to describe one thing, it is called enumeration of adjectives. For example:
Adjectives are often preceded by adverbs (e.g., very, well, beautifully, extremely).
Usually, there is no need to link an adverb to an adjective using a hyphen. For example:
HOW TO SPOT A COMPOUND ADJECTIVE
Put and between the adjectives. If there is no loss of meaning, then you are very likely to be dealing with several adjectives, as opposed to a compound adjective.
step 1 large proud rooster
step 2 large and proud rooster
Although different in style, there is no loss of meaning. This is an example of two adjectives. Therefore, no hyphen is required.
step 1 free range rooster
step 2 free and range rooster
In this example, there is a change in meaning. The rooster is not free and what is a range rooster? This is a compound adjective and should be written as free-range rooster.
step 1 first aid post
step 2 first and aid post
Although aid post is okay, there is a change in meaning with first post. This should be written as first-aid post