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All About the Compound Modifier

When you use a hyphen to connect two words and use those words as an adjective, it is called a compound modifier. 

For example:

Incorrect: The sweet smelling cake made my stomach growl.

This sentence is rather confusing. Is the sweet actually smelling the cake? There needs to be a hyphen should be inserted between sweet and smelling, so the reader understands that the cake smells sweet: 

Incorrect: The sweet-smelling cake made my stomach growl.

Here are more example sentences showing the compound modifier connected by hyphens:

The narrow-minded man wouldn’t listen to my opinions.

The well-behaved girl made her mother proud.

Do you have a short-haired cat?


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By Patrice Riley

Patrice Riley is the pen name of Dr. Deborah Riley. She is a retired English professor that enjoys grammar, literature, and all things writing.

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