Let’s Talk About Hyphens

Is it seven-years old? Or seven years old?

Is it emerald green tie? Or emerald-green tie?

Two good questions. When is a hyphen appropriate?

The correct answers are:

seven years old

emerald-green tie

And now, here’s why:

According to The Chicago Manual of Style, age terms are hyphenated in both noun and adjective forms (except as in the last two examples); note the space after the first hyphen in the fourth example. The examples apply equally to ages expressed as numerals.

a three-year-old
a five-year-old child
a fifty-five-year-old woman
a group of eight- to ten-year-olds
seven years old
eighteen years of age

Now on to colors –

Colors hyphenated before, but not after a noun. This departure from Chicago’s former usage serves both simplicity and logic.

emerald-green tie
reddish-brown flagstone
blue-green algae
snow-white dress
black-and-white print
his tie is emerald green
the stone is reddish brown
the water is blue green
the clouds are snow white
the truth isn’t black and white

6 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About Hyphens”

    1. Ron, you’re not alone. I have to keep looking things up because I, too, forget. Now, you can just go to HallardPress.com and type “Hyphen” in the search bar and the article will show up!

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