Hyphens matter

Hyphen, shmyphen, who cares whether you use hyphens? A Facebook ad drives home the lesson that hyphens’ role as connectors is important.

“Imagine life pain free,” said the ad. This hyphenless sentence could be interpreted as “Imagine getting ‘life pain’ at no cost.” No, thanks, I’ll pass on that offer.

The advertiser should have written, “Imagine life pain-free.” This makes it clear that “pain” relates to “free,” not life. It’s important to use hyphens if their absence changes your meaning or makes it unclear. This is true even though compound modifiers usually aren’t hyphenated when they follow a noun.

In the financial world, the following phrases typically use hyphens:

  • closed-end fund
  • risk-adjusted returns
  • sub-advised funds
  • target-date funds
  • time-weighted rate of return
  • year-to-date period

For more on hyphens, check out these resources:

 

2 replies
  1. Randall Bolten
    Randall Bolten says:

    Nice post! Like the proper placement of commas, apostrophes, and other annoying linguistic chotzkies, they often don’t matter at all, but sometimes they matter a lot! So you need to learn to get them wright. I mean, write. Uh, rite. Oh wait… right!

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