use of hyphens


Is it necessary to use a hyphen in words such as reinstall, reappointed and reelected?

asked Aug 03 '12 at 18:36 Joan Knoll New member

Joan Knoll, I am happy that you posted a good question from which I learned a new rule. I am up voting you for your question.

sanjayAug 04 '12 at 08:05

Thank you, Sanjay. English can be confusing.Joan

Joan KnollAug 04 '12 at 20:32

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1 answer


Determining whether to hyphenate words beginning with the re- prefix can be quite complicated, and the "rule" is not simple.


Here is how the Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition, 2010, University of Chicago Press) handles the problem. In most matters of spelling, CMOS defers to Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th edition, 2007). However, when it comes to compounds formed with prefixes, CMOS "prefers a spare hyphenation style" (7.85) -- that is, closed spelling without hyphenation. CMOS goes on to note that not all of its preferences, especially those exceptions with hyphens, agree with Webster's.


For all three words -- reappoint, reelect, and reinstall -- both CMOS and Merriam-Webster's agree; the words are spelled without hyphens. The MLA Style Manual and Guide to Scholarly Publishing (3rd edition, 2007, Modern Language Association) provides similar guidance (at 3.4.6h).


Generally, both CMOS and MLA limit the use of hyphens with re-  words to those cases where the meaning might be misinterpreted -- recover and re-cover.


It should be noted that the common wisdom in this matter differs from the professional standards used in the publishing industry. Common wisdom suggests that a hyphen is required when re- occurs before a vowel -- re-elect -- as an aid to pronunciation. However, common wisdom is not always correct.


Before the typewriter became ubiquitous in the 1920s, American publishers solved the pronunciation issue through the use of diacritic marks. These "accent" marks are still common in other languages, but have largely disappeared from English, especially American English. The New Yorker magazine is a notable exception as they continue to use diacritic marks -- reëlect reäppoint reïnstall.

link edited Aug 04 '12 at 05:50 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

As I read "The Times of India" newspaper regularly, It suggests a hypen for these words. I am happy that you pointed out my mistake. I learned a new rule from you. Thanks a lot, Sir. I am up-voting you. I do not understand why people forget to up vote you or even show a gratitude by saying "thanks".

sanjayAug 04 '12 at 08:02

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