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Learning to Hyphenate Adjectives

When using two adjectives to modify a single noun, hyphenate. But be careful, since if the same two adjectives are used after the noun, then you do not!

Here’s an example: The well-trained hockey player knew to stand in the goal mouth when his goalie had strayed from the crease. Because the hockey player was well trained, he knew to stand in the goal mouth when his goalie had strayed from his crease.

Note, however, that some compounds have become open. Common terms like ice cream cone (although ice and cream are both acting as adjectives to the noun, cone) do not take a hyphen. Another common example are when income tax is used in a phrase like income tax evasion. Check your dictionary (and the internet) to be sure.

(February 13, 2011)

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