Business Grammar: Hyphens Explained

by Mary Cullen on Fri, Feb 4, 2011

This one paragraph contains a business grammar error. Find and correct it. David Ambers, Technology Director, is upset reports are not communicating value to executives. Error free writing is critical, if we want executives to understand the value of our initiatives. Additionally, reports need to be jargon-free.

Explanation:

There are actually two errors in this paragraph, both involving hyphens. Here is the corrected version:

David Ambers, Technology Director, is upset reports are not communicating value to executives. Error-free writing is critical, if we want executives to understand the value of our initiatives. Additionally, reports need to be jargon free.

Hyphens are very confusing, so the best approach is to look up a hypenated word in a dictionary or style guide. We can also fall back on this grammar rule to correctly hyphenate compound modifiers:

Hyphenate compound modifiers when they come before a noun, and don’t hyphenate them when they come after a noun.

In this example, “Error-free” needs a hyphen, since it is modifying the noun “writing.” The last two words, “jargon free” should not be hypenated, since they come after the noun “reports.”

You will find more detailed explanations of hyphens in this article, We Need Hyphens to be Complaint Free. 

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Topics: Business Grammar

Mary Cullen

About the author

Mary Cullen

Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A in English from the University of Rhode Island, a M.A in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.

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