Use hyphenated compound adjectives
as single modifiers.
A compound adjective is a group of words that provides
a single description of a noun that follows. Use hyphens between
the words to make the words appear as a single unit. Thus,
proper hyphenation of compound adjectives increases understanding
and speeds the reader along.
The Small Business Administration approved a small-business
loan for $2 million.
He said that the large-appliance industry has been
weakened by the recent economic depression.
His "better-late-than-never" attitude kept him from
hearing the opening remarks of many meetings.
Each compound adjective in these sentences provides a single
description of the noun that follows it, regardless of
whether the adjective has two, three, or more words in it.
The decision to place a hyphen between two words or to leave
the hyphen out will often have a significant effect on the
meaning of a sentence.
We need more qualified workers. (We need what? Great
numbers of qualified workers.)
We need more-qualified workers. (We need what? Workers
who are more qualified than the workers we have now.)
The large appliance industry is suffering. (Which
industry? The appliance industry, which is large.)
The large-appliance industry is suffering. (Which
industry? The industry that produces large appliances.)
Hyphenated compound adjectives are used only before nouns.
When they come after nouns, they are not hyphenated.
The up-to-date report was submitted on time. (comes
before the noun)
The report was up to date. (comes after the noun)
It was a well-written report. (comes before the noun)
The report was well written. (comes after the noun)