Use Hyphen In A Sentence

Updated Jan 21, 2023

Understanding the Importance of Using Hyphens in Sentences


When it comes to writing, punctuation marks play a crucial role in ensuring clarity and accuracy in our sentences. Amongst these punctuation marks, the hyphen is one that often gets overlooked or misused. However, understanding how to use hyphens correctly can greatly enhance the readability and meaning of our sentences. In this article, we will delve into the significance of using hyphens and provide some practical examples to illustrate their proper usage.

What is a Hyphen?

A hyphen (-) is a short horizontal line used to join words or parts of words together. It is different from a dash (—) as it is shorter and primarily serves the purpose of connecting words. While it may seem like a minor detail, the correct use of hyphens can significantly impact the clarity and comprehension of a sentence.

Compound Words

One of the primary functions of a hyphen is to join compound words. A compound word is formed by combining two or more words to create a new word with a distinct meaning. Hyphens are used to connect these words, ensuring that the compound word is understood as a single concept.

For example:

  • The well-known actor delivered an exceptional performance.
  • She has a six-year-old daughter.

In the first sentence, "well-known" is a compound word formed by joining "well" and "known." The hyphen in this case helps to convey that "well-known" should be interpreted together as an adjective describing the actor. Similarly, in the second sentence, "six-year-old" is a compound adjective that describes the daughter. Without the hyphens, the sentence could be misinterpreted as having a daughter who is six and another separate individual who is a year old.

Linking Prefixes and Suffixes

Hyphens are also used to connect prefixes or suffixes to a word. This usage assists in avoiding confusion or misinterpretation when the prefix or suffix is attached to a base word.

For example:

  • He is a self-employed entrepreneur.
  • The pre-approval process requires thorough documentation.

In the first sentence, the hyphen joins the prefix "self-" with the word "employed." This ensures that the reader understands that "self-employed" refers to someone working for themselves, rather than being employed by someone else. In the second sentence, the hyphen connects the prefix "pre-" with the word "approval," clarifying that "pre-approval" is a distinct process before formal approval.

Expressing Compound Modifiers

Hyphens are also used to create compound modifiers when multiple words work together to describe a noun. This usage ensures that the entire phrase is understood as a single unit modifying the noun.

For example:

  • She bought a state-of-the-art smartphone.
  • The long-term solution was finally implemented.

In the first sentence, "state-of-the-art" is a compound modifier that describes the smartphone. The hyphens help to convey that the three words are collectively describing the smartphone's advanced and modern features. In the second sentence, "long-term" is a compound modifier that describes the solution. The hyphen clarifies that the solution is not temporary but rather designed to be effective over an extended period.


Hyphens may appear insignificant, but their correct usage is vital in maintaining clarity, avoiding confusion, and conveying the intended meaning in our writing. Whether it is joining compound words, linking prefixes and suffixes, or expressing compound modifiers, hyphens play an essential role in enhancing the overall quality of our sentences. So, let's embrace the hyphen and utilize it effectively to elevate our writing skills.

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