Hyphens in Words for Clarity

Hyphens within a word can make some words clearer.

They are frequently used with prefixes ending with the same vowel as the root begins with to show pronunciation or emphasize meaning. They are also frequently used to distinguish between words.

Examples: co-op (instead of coop, also prefix ending with same vowel as root beginning)

re-elect (prefix ending with same vowel as root beginning)

Re-form the clay pot (instead of reform, which has a different meaning)

Re-sign a contract (instead of resign, which could mean nearly the opposite.)

Sometimes words may be combined mistakenly. A hyphen can help the reader understand what is meant.

Incorrect: The guard captured five foot soldiers.
(Is it five-foot soldiers, or five foot-soldiers?)

Correct: The guard captured five foot-soldiers.

According to author Vince Emery, a message posted on the Internet almost started a "flame war" because it said, "I resent your message." It was supposed to say, " I re-sent your message."


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