Use sparingly.

Use hyphens (-) primarily to avoid ambiguity:

Small business is understood. Small-business owners should be hyphenated to avoid ambiguity.

Compound modifiers that precede a noun take a hyphen: first-quarter goal, full-time job

The hyphen is usually dropped after the noun: goal in the first quarter, works full-time

According to the Associated Press Stylebook, retain the hyphen when a modifier that would be hyphenated before a noun occurs after a form of the verb to be:

Your uncle is well-known. His son is soft-spoken.

See prefixes.

Use to avoid repeating vowels or tripling consonants: co-owners, shell-like 

Exceptions: cooperate, coordinate


Part of a series on punctuation.