"Hyphenation" is a term for linking two words with a hyphen to make a compound word. In this context, "compound" simply means two separate words have been joined together. But when should you hyphenate a word? We'll explain the basics below.\nCompound Adjectives\nCompound adjectives are formed by joining two words (e.g., "good-looking," "power-hungry" or "accident-prone"). Further examples include:\n\n \tFree-range\n \tPart-time\n \tLong-term\n \tWell-known\n\nCompound adjectives can be composed of more than two words, making them more like phrases:\n\n \tTongue-in-cheek\n \tHappy-go-lucky\n \tDevil-may-care\n\nCompound adjectives like these are often only be hyphenated if they appear before what they are describing in a sentence. For example, the compound adjective in "The well-known artist Whistler\u2026" could also be used without a hyphen later in the sentence: e.g., "The artist Whistler was well known\u2026"\n\nHowever, some modifiers are hyphenated regardless of where they appear in a sentence, such as "error-free" (e.g., "the error-free paper" and "the paper was error-free" are both correct).\nCompound Nouns and Verbs\nIt is more difficult to know when to hyphenate nouns and verbs. In many cases, it is simply a matter of convention (e.g., "mother-in-law"). The best thing to do with these terms is check a dictionary. If you find a term where the hyphen is optional, your main guideline should be consistency.\n\nMany words that begin with the prefixes "non-," "pre-," "de-," or "re-" are hyphenated, but this is only necessary when it prevents a letter clash.\n\nFor example, we hyphenate "re-evaluate" because "evaluate" starts with the same letter that precedes it. But we do not hyphenate "retry" because there is no letter clash. This isn't always true, but it is a good rule of thumb (and you can always check a dictionary if you're not sure about a word).\nHanging Hyphens\nA hanging or suspended hyphen can be used when two compound terms contain the same second element. For instance, a company might say "we offer five- and ten-year mortgages." Here, the hyphen after "five" shows that we mean "five-year and ten-year mortgages" but didn't want to repeat "year."\n\nThis can also be done with closed compounds, such as in "under- and overground trains." Note that we use a hyphen after "under" even though the full word would be "underground," without a hyphen.\nHyphenating for Clarity\nIn some cases, we also use a hyphen to ensure clarity. Omitting a hyphen can even change the meaning of some sentences. For example:\n\n \tI once saw a man-eating crocodile.\n \tI once saw a man eating crocodile.\n\nThe first sentence here describes a crocodile as "man-eating" (i.e., a crocodile that eats humans). The second, non-hyphenated sentence describes a man eating crocodile meat.\n\nRules about which words should be hyphenated can vary between institutions, though, so be sure to double check your style guide.\n\nIf you would like to have your paper checked for style, grammar and formatting errors, make use of Proofed\u2019s specialist academic proofreading service.