This week, I’m going to cover the rules of hyphens with one word. Should you use a hyphen or combine the prefix and root word? It depends.
Common terms used in this post:
Prefix = comes at the front of a word (two to four letters)
Suffix = comes at the end of a word (two to four letters)
Proper noun = A particular person (being) or thing, capitalized
Vowel = a, e, i, o, u, sometimes y
Root word = a word within a word that has a prefix or suffix
* Most times it is okay not to use a hyphen. If in doubt, look it up or go without. The following rules are when to use a hyphen with a word:
1. Use a hyphen when a prefix comes before a proper noun. As you can see combining them would look a little odd because the proper noun is capitalized.
Examples: un-American, non-Baptist
2. Use a hyphen if a prefix ends in a or i and the root word begins with the same letter.
Examples: semi-intoxicated, ultra ambitious
3. Hyphenate all words that begin with self. The only exceptions are selfish and selfless.
Examples: self-addressed, self-supporting
4. If the prefix is -ex, use a hyphen.
Examples: ex-husband, ex-Marine
5. If the prefix is re-, only use a hyphen when re- means again and not using a hyphen would create another word.
Examples: re-sort vs. resort; re-creation vs. recreation; re-covered vs. recovered
When to not use a hyphen and just combine the parts to create word:
1. When a prefix ends in one vowel and a root word begins with a different one, combine them.
Examples: antiaircraft, coauthor, preamble
2. If you get a double e or double o, combine the parts. However there are exceptions, so be sure to look it up if you are not sure.
Examples: cooperative, proactive
Exceptions: co-owner, de-emphasize
(The only reason I could see these being exceptions is because they would look odd without the hyphen. If you know the rule, or have another opinion, I’d love to hear it!)
Sources: The Blue Book of Punctuation and Grammar, merriamwebster.com, my brain