Hyphens, explains Clara, an editor who has worked with Uni-Edit for close to a decade, are very helpful to disambiguate modified words, which will make your writing clearer. Hyphens are commonly used in academic writing in English.

As Clara finishes stacking the last crate of apples, freshly picked from her apple orchard in Quebec, Canada, she explains that the correct use of hyphens shows the author’s advanced command of English. It also helps to make detailed descriptions clear which is particularly useful when dealing with complex subject matters. Clara explains:

“Hyphens cause writers more trouble than any other form of punctuation, except perhaps commas. This may be because the hyphen is only used in writing rather than speech. The point of the hyphen is to avoid ambiguity for the reader.”

She offers an example:

Correct: the well-known actor
Incorrect: the well known actor

In this example, ‘well-known’ is a compound word that modifies ‘actor’. The hyphen indicates that the ‘well’ applies to only the ‘known’ and does not apply to the ‘actor’. That is, it is the actor is not both well and known.

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