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Monday, April 23, 2012


Grammar Rule #1: Hyphens hunker down.
On your keyboard, the hyphen key is tapped once, to look like this: -
If you tap twice, you have an em dash, which looks like this: —

Do not put a space on either side of a hyphen. It should always hunker down between two words, like this: word-word.

I have a toll-free number. (correct)
I have a toll—free number. (em dash = incorrect)
I have a toll - free number. (space on either side = incorrect)

Grammar Rule #2: Exception to hyphens hunkering down.
When the second part of a hyphenated word or compound word is omitted (because it shares the second part with a word immediately following), use a space after the hyphen. 

Instead of first-place and second-place winners, you can correctly write first- and second-place winners.

Instead of northwest and southwest avenues, you can correctly write north- and southwest avenues.

BUT: for overpaid and overrated employees, you cannot write overpaid and –rated employees (because the second part of the words must be the same, not the first part).

Grammar Challenge: Your Turn!  Which examples are correct?
1.   She lives in a third - floor apartment.
2.   It’s located on a north-south street.
3.   Her grandfather and –mother own the building.
4.   They take care of her three-year-old son while she’s at work.
5.   She shares a half—day job with her brother.
6.   The job is only a five- to ten-minute walk from her building.
(Answers are below.)


Correct answers are the even numbers. How did you do?


  1. Hi Steph! glad I dropped in from the ACFW course! I learned good stuff this morning. I will definitely visit regularly. Thanks for putting out quick grammar tops. :-)

  2. You'll be happy to know I aced your test. :) I'm learning!

  3. I didn't know about the em dash or the space after the hyphen in compounds. Thanks, good to know. Passed the test with flying colors.


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