Hyphenation Quiz #1: Attaching Prefixes to Words

By Mark Nichol

Identify in each sentence below whether, according to The Chicago Manual of Style and most other style guides, the word with a prefix should have a hyphen connecting the prefix to the base word or whether the prefix should be directly attached to the base word.

1.
a) The anti-immigration group solicited signatures for their petition.
b) The antiimmigration group solicited signatures for their petition.

2.
a) She is suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
b) She is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.

3.
a) They hope to reestablish contact.
b) They hope to re-establish contact.

4.
a) The multibillion-dollar project is behind schedule.
b) The multi-billion-dollar project is behind schedule.

5.
a) His midcareer move was risky.
b) His mid-career move was risky.

Answers and Explanations

Whether a prefix is hyphenated to a root word or directly attached varies depending on a range of factors, but in most cases, no hyphen is necessary. Consult a dictionary when in doubt.

1.
a) The anti-immigration group solicited signatures for their petition.

Prefixes ending with an i are always hyphenated to a root word beginning with i.

2.
b) She is suffering from posttraumatic stress disorder.

Post is always attached to a root word without a hyphen, even when the root word begins with a t.

3.
a) They hope to reestablish contact.

Re is almost always attached directly to a root word without a hyphen, even when the root word begins with an e. (Rare exceptions that make distinctions between homophones include re-cover, meaning “to cover again,” to distinguish it from recover, meaning “to obtain again.”)

4.
a) The multibillion-dollar project is behind schedule.

Multi is always directly attached to a word designating an order of magnitude.

5.
a) His midcareer move was risky.

In most words beginning with mid, the prefix is attached directly to the root word.

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1 Response to “Hyphenation Quiz #1: Attaching Prefixes to Words”

  • Dale A. Wood

    Some writer in this very newsletter claimed that “multi-billion dollar budget was right”.
    It was instantly clear that this was specious, especially considering these {multimillionaire, multitrillion dollar debt, a multiprocessor computer, a multifaceted gem, a multilane freeway, a multinational treaty, a multirole performance by Peter Sellers, and a multirole helicopter like the SH-63F “Seahawk”}.
    As seen in the Wikipedia too many times, “multi-role” is incorrect.

    The “Seahawk” is not just a weapon of war, such as antisubmarine warfare, but rather is also serves in medical evacuations, in search-and-rescue operations, in humanitarian relief missions, in expedited transfers of personnel and supplies, in scouting, and in weather reporting. This is “multirole”, and that is why it is called a “LAMPS III” helicopter, where LAMPS = Light Airborne Multipurpose System”.
    Aha! “multipurpose”, as in a multipurpose home PC, too.
    D.A.W.

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