Hyphens Exercise (652)

In each sentence, determine whether one or hyphens should be inserted or omitted.

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The mother-of-six indulged in her favorite pastime on Friday.
Correct : The mother of six indulged in her favorite pastime on Friday.

The phrase "mother of six" is not a standing noun phrase that requires hyphens to clarify the unification of several words into a concept; it’s merely a descriptive phrase, and no hyphens are necessary.

2.
Original: Kids with picky-eating habits have higher rates of anxiety and depression.
Correct : Kids with picky eating habits have higher rates of anxiety and depression.

Picky eating is a habit, so "picky-eating" is not incorrect as a phrasal adjective preceding "habit," but a reference to eating habits identified as picky, which requires no hyphen because "picky" modifies "eating habits," is clearer.

3.
Original: Newly-released photos show the Bush administration’s reaction to the attacks on September 11, 2001.
Correct : Newly released photos show the Bush administration’s reaction to the attacks on September 11, 2001.

The adverb "newly" modifies "released," so no hyphenation is required; compare with "just-released photos," in which "just" is an adjective that, combined with "released," modifies "photos."

4.
Original: Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst city in the nation for first-time home buyers is not San Francisco, but it did make the bottom-10.
Correct : Contrary to conventional wisdom, the worst city in the nation for first-time home buyers is not San Francisco, but it did make the bottom 10.

"First-time" correctly modifies "home buyers," but the hyphen in "bottom-10" serves no purpose (though it would be correct if "bottom 10" were modifying a noun, as in "San Francisco did make the bottom-10 list").

5.
Original: These are salt of the earth people who may not fit the traditional family model.
Correct : These are salt-of-the-earth people who may not fit the traditional family model.

The idiomatic phrase "salt of the earth" modifies "people," so the words in the phrase are hyphenated to clarify that they combine to form a phrasal adjective.

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