Tag Archives: hyphen

Comma or Hyphen?

Here’s a thorny little problem : What punctuation mark do you use when you put two descriptive words (adjectives) together? As you climb the career ladder in criminal justice, you’re likely to encounter this issue more and more often.

Here are some examples:

I finally found my long missing notes from last year’s conference.

It was a long tiring meeting.

That was a wrong headed decision from the mayor.

The academy needs to purchase more desks for left handed recruits.

My next door neighbor asked me about job openings in the department.

The captain brought back some new exciting ideas from the national meeting.

You have two choices in sentences like these: a hyphen (-) or a comma. How do you know which one to use?

Look at the examples above to see what you think. (It’s easier than it looks!) The answers are below.

Hint: if the two words go together, use a hyphen: low-fat diet. If it’s more like a list, use a comma: dark, cluttered room.

* * * * * * *

ANSWERS

1.  I finally found my long missing notes from last year’s conference.

Long and missing go together. Use a hyphen:

I finally found my long-missing notes from last year’s conference. CORRECT

2.  It was a long tiring meeting.

Was it a long meeting that was tiring? Yes. Use a comma:

It was a long, tiring meeting. CORRECT

3.  That was a wrong headed decision from the mayor.

Wrong and headed go together. Use a hyphen:

That was a wrong-headed decision from the mayor. CORRECT

4.  The academy needs to purchase more desks for left handed recruits.

Left and handed go together. Use a hyphen:

The academy needs to purchase more desks for left-handed recruits. CORRECT

5.  My next door neighbor asked me about job openings in the department.

Next and door go together. Use a hyphen:

My next-door neighbor asked me about job openings in the department. CORRECT

6.  The captain brought back some new exciting ideas from the national meeting.

Are these new ideas that are exciting? Yes. Use a comma:

The captain brought back some new, exciting ideas from the national meeting. CORRECT

a checkmark

Share