Hyphen in Compounds with high-, low-, well-, ill-, better-, best-, little-, lesser-, etc.

Generally, when a compound modifier comes before the word it modifies, you need to use a hyphen in the compound (e.g., a high-impact advertisement or a well-made handbag). Compound words formed from comparatives or superlatives also need hyphens.

When using high or low (or other adjectives) as part of a compound adjective before a noun, a hyphen should be inserted between high or low and the word that it modifies.

Some examples of compound adjectives using high and low are high-level/low-level, high-income/low-income, and high-impact/low-impact.

Consider the examples below for illustration:

Low-flying airplanes contribute to the noise pollution in the area.
This car runs best on high-octane gasoline.
A high-interest savings account is one of the best ways to save money.
While a high-stress job like firefighting can be detrimental to one’s health, sometimes the payoff is worth it.

However, when the compound comes after the noun in refers to, you should leave the hyphen out.

These mangoes are high quality.

Comparative and superlative adjectives in compound words should also have a hyphen when they come before a noun.

Low-income families often face more stress than their higher-income counterparts.
It is generally preferable to have a position as a higher-level executive than as a menial worker.

There are a lot of modifiers used to create compound adjectives. Other modifiers commonly used for this purpose include well-, ill-, better-, best-, little-, and lesser-. Consider the following examples:

Despite her troubled upbringing, Jessica seemed like a very well-adjusted girl.
Better-known brands are often more trusted by consumers.

But remember to omit the hyphen when the compound comes after a noun.

Despite her troubled upbringing, the girl seemed well adjusted.
Consumers are most likely to trust brands that are better known.

Weekly Grammar Tips
Weekly Grammar Tips
Want more good reads?

Get the best stories delivered to you each week.

Your writing, at its best
Why not make your writing mistake-free across the web?
Get Grammarly It’s free
Blog Updates
Sign up for our weekly newsletter and never miss a story.
Want more good reads?

Get the best stories delivered to you each week.

Embed Code

Copy code below to embed this post to your site.