When do you use a hyphen?

A hyphen (-) is used to connect two words and show that they should be read in combination to express one meaning. The main contexts where hyphenation is needed are:

  • In compound adjectives before a noun: well-known ideas, many-faceted explanation, mind-bending episode
  • When a phrasal verb (e.g., “break in”) is used as a noun: a break-in, the go-ahead
  • In some compound nouns consisting of several words: father-in-law, free-for-all, jack-of-all-trades