Hyphens with ages

Reader’s question: How do you use hyphens with ages, for example, two year old child?

Answer: We hyphenate words that act as a unit to describe the word that follows. Two year old describes the age of the child, so you would write two-year-old child. This rule applies generally with hyphens, for example, long-term plan, five-storey building. If the words are not modifying the following word, we don’t hyphenate them. For example, in the long term, the building has five storeys.

Hyphens become a bit more complicated because we often hyphenate words that are commonly used together, for example, bitter-sweet.

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