Editorial Help Desk

Your Resource for Grammar and
MCPS Style

Word of the Month

Preempt (verb) To take something before others can get to it.
To take the place of or have precedence over something.
To gain a commanding place over something.
      The President's speech preempted regular programming.

Tip of the Month


Hyphenation: A Quick Review

Here are simple guidelines for hyphenation.

Question: Should I hyphenate a compound noun: a father-in-law, the passer-by, a two-by-four a compound verb: to double-click, to test-market, to sight-read
Answer: Consult the dictionary. Ideally, use Merriam-Webster's 11thEdition.

Question: Should I hyphenate a compound adjective?
Answer: Yes. The hyphen is used to connect the words and numbers to the noun next to them.
Note: An adjective created for an occasion is always hyphenated: A writer-director role, a peach-raspberry flavor, a blue-green chair.

Question: Should I hyphenate the prefix or suffix to a word?
Answer: In most cases you do not. Example: antidote for the virus.
Note: Hyphenate if the word includes a proper noun. Example: post-Thanksgiving activity.

Question: If I do not hyphenate compound words, will the reader misunderstand my sentence?
Answer: Hyphenate compound words only if the reader may misunderstand them.
Example: after-school snacks (not after school-snacks); small-business seminar (not small business-seminar)

If a flicker of doubt floats in your mind, always consult your dictionary.


When in doubt, contact the Editorial Help Desk for help (Donna_M_Marks Pleasant@mcpsmd.org) or call 240-740-2971.

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