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Note 128 – Hyphenating adjectives correctly

There are many adjectives with hyphens such as left-handed and well-mannered; however, in some instances you don’t need a hyphen. The Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Manser & Stephen Curtis suggests using a hyphen if the adjective comes before a noun e.g. a left-handed child and a well-kept house. If, however, the adjective follows a verb then it doesn’t require a hyphen e.g. Masie is left handed and Suzie likes well behaved children.

More examples:

  • The self-help books are upstairs.
  • Adam is self conscious.
  • Jane is a well-known writer.
  • The soup is home made.
  • Home-made soup is delicious.

Is the following correct?

“The department store sells left-handed cutlery”

I couldn’t find anything suggesting what to do if the adjective follows a verb and is also before a noun, so I turned to the Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation by John Seely. He suggests that a compound adjective (a word composed of two words – in this case left-handed) should have a hyphen if it makes the meaning clearer. In the above sentence, I believe that it reads better when the word ‘left-handed’ has a hyphen.

That’s it for today. If you have any questions about today’s blog, please leave me a comment.

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Until tomorrow…


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Reference list:

Pocket Writer’s Handbook by Martin Manser & Stephen Curtis (Penguin Reference Library)

The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation by John Seely, USA

About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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