When to Hyphenate 2 Words

When it comes to writing for real estate, hyphenating is a big deal! (Omg… yes. We just said that.) Hyphens appear often in real estate writing because so much of what we write is descriptive, and adjectival phrases (phrases that are used to describe a noun) are one of the most common places we use hyphens in the English language.

So how do you know when to hyphenate? 

Let’s say you’re describing a home as “well maintained,” but you’re not sure whether or not it’s one word, two words, or hyphenated.

First, head to the dictionary. We recommend Merriam-Webster. Type in your phrase and hit “search.” Unfortunately, for this example, Merriam Webster says “The word you've entered isn't in the dictionary.” Well, bummer! 

That leaves two options: Either “well maintained” is two words, or it should be hyphenated to read “well-maintained.”

When in doubt, there are a few simple rules to follow to make sure you’ve got it right. Whether or not you hyphenate certain words is determined by their grammatical function:

Rule #1: Two words can be hyphenated when they are used as an adjective (a descriptor) that comes BEFORE a noun (a “person, place or thing”).

Correct example: This is a well-maintained home.

See? “Home” is the noun, and “well maintained” BEFORE the noun.

Rule #2: Two words are NOT hyphenated when they are used as an adjective AFTER a noun.

    Correct example: This home is well maintained. 

    See? “Home” is the noun, and “well maintained” comes AFTER the noun.

Here are few common examples you will find in real estate writing:

    Correct: “This 50-year-old home boasts original historic details.”

    Correct: “This home is 50 years old and boasts original historic details.”

    Correct: “This 3-bedroom, 2-bath home is…”

    Correct: “This home has 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, and is…”

And of course, because grammar is so fun, there are 3 exceptions to this rule:

1. If a word ends in -ly, a hyphen never follows it, even if it modifies a noun. 

Example: “Impeccably maintained home” would never be “impeccably-maintained home.” 

2. If it’s a phrase that is commonly NOT hyphenated, then don’t hyphenate it. 

Example: “Real estate business” would never be “real-estate business.” 

3. Do not hyphenate foreign phrases. 

Example: “bona fide expert” would never be “bona-fide expert.” 


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