Hyphens Exercise (763)

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

Answers and Explanations

1.
Original: The event ended with a speech by then-Vice-President John Smith.
Correct : The event ended with a speech by then vice president John Smith.

A hyphen is not required to attach the modifier "then" to a job title to indicate that the person held the position at the time but does not now, and though "vice president" was originally hyphenated, it is no longer treated that way. Also, because the job title joins "then" as a description in a modifying phrase, it is not capitalized.

2.
Original: Seventy-five percent of the panel who appeared on the program five-and-a-half years ago are no longer alive.
Correct : Seventy-five percent of the panel who appeared on the program five and a half years ago are no longer alive.

The mixed fraction "five and a half" requires no hyphenation (but "seventy-five" is correct).

3.
Original: It was a pot meet kettle moment.
Correct : It was a pot-meet-kettle moment.

This allusion to the idiomatic saying "the pot calling the kettle black," referring to a hypocritical comment, should treat "pot meet kettle" as a phrasal adjective, though this solution is problematic, because in the phrase "pot meet kettle," in which the pot is being addressed, "pot" should be set off from "meet kettle" with a comma, and a phrasal adjective should not include punctuation other than hyphens.

4.
Original: The finale was an anti-climactic finish to an overblown spectacle.
Correct : The finale was an anticlimactic finish to an overblown spectacle.

Like most prefixes, "anti" is usually attached directly to the root word it modifies. (Exceptions include when the root word is a proper noun, as in "anti-Semitism," and when the first letter in the root word is an "i," as in "anti-immigration.")

5.
Original: The reading material is more appropriate for middle school age children.
Correct : The reading material is more appropriate for middle-school-age children.

"Middle school," like "high school" and "elementary school," is a permanent compound (a standing noun phrase validated by its inclusion in dictionaries), so no hyphen is necessary when that phrase appears in isolation. However, because it is joining "age" as a phrasal adjective modifying "children," the three words should be connected.

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