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Hyphens and Compound Adjectives

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Introduction to the Complicated Topic of Hyphenating Phrasal Adjectives

Some general observations should help you understand the principles behind the rule on hyphenating compound adjectives and therefore increase the likelihood of correct hyphenation.

To begin, a compound word is simply a single expression made up of more than one word and acting as a single word. Consider the following italicized adjectives: publicly traded stock, well-known actress, bookkeeping system. Notice that each is spelled in a different way:

1. open (publicly traded) 2. hyphenated (well-known) 3. closed (bookkeeping)

And that's the issue you'll face: whether to spell the multiword expression as two or more words (open), as a hyphenated expression (hyphenated), or as a single word (closed).

 

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