Hyphenation: Part II (Prefixes)
by Tina Blue
January 16, 2001
In an earlier article, "Hyphenation: Part I (Hyphenated Compounds)," I presented some of the situations where a hyphen is reliably required in phrases using written-out numbers or numerals. In this article I will deal with how to use hyphens with prefixes.
A prefix attached to a common word usually becomes part of the word, so that the combination is written as one word.
I. COMMON PREFIXES
Most compounds made with the following prefixes are not hyphenated:
anti intra re co macro semi de micro sub hyper non supra hypo pre trans infra pseudo un
EXAMPLES: antiwar, cochampion, coadministration, cochair, codiscover, comanagement, copayment, cofounders, copartners, cohabitate, coauthorship, decommission, debriefing, hyperactive, hypoallergenic, interpersonal, intramural, infrastructure, macroeconomics, macrocosm, microchip, microcosmic, predawn, prewar, prehistory, preadult, preverbal, prehuman, premeasure, prerequisite, pseudoclassic, pseudopregnancy, pseudosophisticated, pseudoscientific, realign, reread, reabsorb, reallocate, reassemble, reanimate, reapply, reappoint, semiautomatic, semiannual, semiarid, semiformal, semiliterate, subgenre, subacute, subcutaneous, subcontract, subcategory, subadult, transcontinental, transmontane, transoceanic, unappealing, unintentional, uninhibited, uninspiring, unimpressive.
A. Compounds with these prefixes are sometimes (but not always) hyphenated to avoid doubling a vowel or tripling a consonant, and sometimes even to prevent initial misreading or mispronunciation.
1. To avoid doubling a vowel: anti-art anti-administration co-opt (but cooperation) de-emphasize 2. To avoid tripling a consonant: shell-like 3. To prevent initial reading or mispronunciation:
re-cover vs. recover (I will re-cover the sofa when I recover from the flu.) re-lay vs. relay (Relay the message. They will re-lay the tiles.) re-lease vs. release (Will you re-lease the apartment? Will they release the hostages?) either co-worker or coworker (but "coworker" could be initially misread as "cow-orker")
B. When one of these prefixes is combined with a word that begins with a capital letter, a hyphen is used to avoid having a capital letter in the middle of the word.
anti-American un-Christian pseudo-British trans-European trans-Atlantic The alternative forms "transatlantic" and "unchristian" have become fairly common recently, but when in doubt, stick to the rule about hyphenating a prefix when the word it is attached to begins with a capital letter.
II. ALL AND SELF USED AS PREFIXES
When all and self are used as prefixes, they are usually hyphenated: all-around all-American
III. WORDS WITH GREAT AND GRAND AS PREFIXES
A. When great is used as a prefix with kinship terms, it is hyphenated: great-aunt great-grandmother great-uncle B. When grand is used as a prefix with kinship terms, it is sometimes hyphenated, sometimes not: grandmother grandfather grand-uncle grand-niece
IV. WORDS WITH HALF AS A PREFIX
Words with half as a prefix are usually, but not always, hyphenated : half-life half-asleep half-baked half-pound half-kilo half-hearted or halfhearted halfway