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Spelling. Hyphens

Interuniversity Style Guide

    The content of these guidelines is taken from the third edition of the Vives University Network’s Interuniversity Style Guide for Writing Institutional Texts, an interuniversity project in which the UPC participates with the support of the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Government of Catalonia.



    • Unless they belong to a figure (), always spell out and hyphenate fractions.

      The report shows that one-third of all undergraduates use campus parking facilities.



    • Many words beginning with a prefix are written with a hyphen (co-payment); many are not (overproduction).
    • Confusingly, there are also cases where both forms are considered acceptable (British: pre-school / American: preschool). As can be seen from this last example, the tendency in American English is to hyphenate less than in British English.
    • In all events, if in doubt about whether a prefix should be followed by a hyphen, consult a reliable dictionary.
    • However, the following observations generally hold.
    • Words beginning with a common prefix (such as un-, dis- or re-) are often written without a hyphen

      Current numbers of absences from class in many subjects are unacceptably high.
      Student representatives have disregarded criticism from the Rector, calling it uninformed and unfair.
      This initiative reaffirms the strong ties between the two universities.

    • In contrast, a hyphen is generally used with prefixes such as neo- and ex-.

      The Arts Faculty building is an outstanding example of neo-classical architecture.
      Dr Rovira is the ex-director of the Cancer Research Institute.
    • Hyphenate all words formed by a prefix + word beginning with a capital letter.

      This movement is a pan-European response to failures in education.
      The research confirms a growing anti-British sentiment in commercial relations.
    • Note that transatlantic is normally written as a single word.


    Compound adjectives

    • Hyphenate compound adjectives before a noun.

      a little-discussed problem
      a low-prevalence phenomenon
      a well-meaning intervention

    • However, do not hyphenate compound adjectives in which the first element is an adverb ending in either -ly or -y.

      a compellingly argued paper
      a highly detailed research proposal
      a very engaging argument

    • Similarly, do not hyphenate compound adjectival forms in which the first element is a comparative or superlative.

      the most cited research paper
      a less complicated suggestion


    Nouns formed from phrasal verbs

    • Nouns formed from phrasal verbs are often written as a single word and may or may not be hyphenated. If in doubt, consult a dictionary.

      The dropout rate for this course is unusually high.
      Funding problems have meant that these projects have been put on standby.
      A major follow-up to this study has already been planned.
      Last year's buy-in allowed the faculty to open three new laboratories.


    Adjectives formed from phrasal verbs

    • When a phrasal verb is used as an adjective it is usually hyphenated.

      Students participating in this initiative were given additional information during the signing-on phase.
      During the warm-up period, there will be no assessment.


    Word breaks

    • Hyphens can be used to break words up into their component parts to facilitate reading.

      Part-time teaching staff plays an increasingly important role in the MA programme.
      Students who do not comply with the regulations may lose the right to re-examination.

    • But note that certain high-frequency terms are no longer hyphenated.

      Cooperation among participating universities is gradually increasing.
      Macroeconomic factors have led to considerable modifications in research funding.

    Compounds with the same root and different prefixes

    • When a noun is preceded by more than one hyphenated prefix, write them as follows.

      In a pioneering study, the Department of Psychology is currently researching the pre- and post-natal effects of carbon monoxide.