Grammar Hyphens with the Prefix re |
The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Hyphens with the Prefix re

Many of us find hyphens confusing. The prefix re can make hyphenating even more of a head-scratching experience. However, there is really only one rule that you need to learn to determine when to hyphenate with re.

Rule: Use the hyphen with the prefix re only when re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word.

Example: Will she recover from her illness?
Re does not mean again so no hyphen.

Example: I have re-covered the sofa twice.
Re does mean again AND omitting the hyphen would have caused confusion with another word so hyphenate.

Example: The stamps have been reissued.
Re means again but would not cause confusion with another word so no hyphen.

Example: I must re-press the shirt.
Re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word so hyphenate.


Pop Quiz

Select the correct answer:
1A. Please call the restaurant to reserve a table.
1B. Please call the restaurant to re-serve a table.
1C. Please call the restaurant to re serve a table.

2A. I resent the file to you last night.
2B. I re-sent the file to you last night.
2C. I re sent the file to you last night.

3A. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can resign them.
3B. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can re-sign them.
3C. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can re sign them.

1A. Please call the restaurant to reserve a table.
2B. I re-sent the file to you last night.
3B. I’ll print out the letters again, and you can re-sign them.

If the article or the existing discussions do not address a thought or question you have on the subject, please use the "Comment" box at the bottom of this page.

87 responses to “Hyphens with the Prefix re

  1. Harriet says:

    So useful, thanks!

  2. Hannah says:

    What about rerule? Is that even a word? or should it be Re-Rule? having a fight in scrabble!


  3. michael says:

    Is it reintegration or re-integration? If it’s hyphenated, is the ‘i’ capitalized or not?

  4. Tan Beng Hoon says:

    Would you be able to help clarify the following :
    1.reopen or re-open.
    2.recontract or re-contract.
    3.rehire or re-hire.

    Thank you.

  5. Renee Tollison says:

    re-x-raying or re-xraying or re x-raying?

    I’m a court reporter and we get it all. LOL

    • We recommend hyphenating prefixes any time they might be distracting or confusing without the hyphen. Some sources prefer a capital X. Therefore, you may write “re-x-raying.” or “re-X-raying.” “X-ray again” might be an even better choice of words when rewriting can be an option.

      • doesitmatter says:

        Rewriting is not an option as a court reporter. Their job is to take down everything said, verbatim.

  6. Araz says:

    Could you help me check if my use of ‘re’ is correct in this sentence?

    “The sequential approach to direction setting, re-engineering operations, rewriting job descriptions, competences and roles, training people, and communicating changes internally and externally carries the risk of being slow, sterile and rigid.”

    It is particularly re-engineering and rewriting.

    Thank you.

  7. James says:

    What about reselect? It means select again so should it be re-select?

    OED seems to suggest reselect

  8. Teeka says:

    I’m a technical writer/editor and often find the first word in a sentence is a hyphenated word. Ex: Re-Enter your password in the….” I was always taught that if the first part is hyphenated, so is the second part, but more and more, I’m seeing it as “Re-enter your password…”
    Which is correct?

    • We assume your question has to do with the capitalization after the hyphen. “Re-enter your password” is correct. Unless it is a hyphenated compound in a title, only proper nouns or proper adjectives are capitalized after the hyphen, as in words such as trans-American or mid-July.

  9. Yomna says:

    I just got introduced to that rule. Does this imply the terms “reuse” “recreate” “repurpose” “recycle” are not correct? Should I be hyphenating them all? What about “replay” and “reward”? I am confused now. Help, please.

    • The rule says to use a hyphen when “omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word.” Only one of the words on your list is likely to be confused with other words: “recreate” vs. “re-create.” Therefore, “re-create” requires a hyphen when used to mean create again.

      • Dmitry says:

        It puzzles me a little. What would be the difference between “recreate” and “re-create” after all?
        Cambridge dictionary defines “recreate” as “create again” as well. Do I miss something?
        Thank you!

      • Part-time comma pedant says:

        Surely reward is also confusing: reward (a thing given in recognition of service, effort, or achievement) versus re-ward (to reapply a guard or protection; or to readmit a patient to a hospital).

  10. Rheanna Maxwell says:

    Ok, say a store has been remodeling and never closed. They’re preparing for…
    Grand Re-Opening?
    Re-Grand Opening?
    Grand reopening

  11. Dmitry says:

    I’ve got a question about verb “re-login” meaning “login again” (like to a web-site). Is hyphen necessary here?
    I noticed that they tend to use hyphen over the Internet, but I didn’t find any possible meaning of “relogin” to be confused with. How does the rule apply here?

    • Usually login is used as a noun and log in is the verb form. The Chicago Manual of Style recommends using a hyphen before a compound term, therefore write re-log in.

  12. jackie says:

    What is the correct way to write “re-employment” if you have worked with a company in the past and you are looking to work at that company again? Should it have a hypenated or not?

    • There is nothing wrong with writing reemployment, although most periodicals would hyphenate: re-employment. You could also use an umlaut over the second e.

  13. Emilie says:

    Is this grammatically correct:

    RE meaning AGAIN or not confused with another word.

    Chelsea, your eyeliner is smudged, can you re-apply your eye makeup ?

    • The rule says to use a hyphen when “omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another word.” There is no confusion, therefore do not use a hyphen. The space before the question mark is also unnecessary. And your example is a run-on sentence. Replace the comma with a period.
      Chelsea, your eyeliner is smudged. Can you reapply your eye makeup?

  14. Dee says:

    Hyphen or no hyphen?

    Readdress or re-address

    Ex: The court should readdress the issue.

    • Since re does not cause confusion with another word, do not use a hyphen.

    • Benoy Jacob says:

      re-address. Without hyphen it can be confusing for not-so-proficient readers. is it a typo in redress, is it a missing space in read dress

      • As the post states, the hyphen is used with the prefix when re means again AND omitting the hyphen would cause confusion with another English word. When in doubt, refer to a dictionary. The leading dictionaries do not hyphenate readdress.

  15. Sandy says:

    I love your blog, and articles. The subjects have always confused me. A good example of confusion for me was the use of a comma after”and”.
    The above article has still left me confused. I have always wondered about using a hyphen after “re”. I am currently writing a word document and, finally decided to look it up. (So thankful YOU came up in my Google search)
    Questioning myself each time, my conclusion has always been to add the hyphen if “re” preceded a vowel.
    The combination of vowels in this instance still confuses me. I am sure it stems from the phonetic rule of when there is a double vowel, the first becomes silent making the second a long vowel. (a long vowel is the letter sounding like it does when saying the alphabet)
    My understanding of phonics is, admittedly, very limited. In school, to long ago, site reading was taught along with only the absolute basics of phonics (a poor decision in my opinion)
    In most cases, the vowel after the “re” is short, resulting in a change in sound. A good example would be the explanation of “reintegration” above. My understanding would be that the sounds would change to “rintergration”, with the “e” silent, and “i” to become long.
    I have never questioned hyphenating a double “e” though, simply because it always looks just plain wrong.
    Could you please clarify this for me? I may be older, but am still learning.

    • If the prefix ends in the same vowel that the root word starts with, many, but not all, editors separate them with a hyphen.The best policy is to look up the word in question. If you cannot find it listed anywhere, hyphenate only if you feel the reader would struggle with it otherwise.

  16. John says:

    According to your rules and my personal preference, one would write rereferral rather than re-referral for the act of referring again. However, in an internet search one finds re-referral more often than rereferral. Is it valid to insert a hyphen when the prefix re- is immediately followed by a second occurrence of re (which, etymologically speaking, is itself an instance of the re- prefix)?

    My own hypothesis about why people nowadays tend to insert a hyphen into rereferral and many other words with prefixes is that most spell checkers (such as those in Microsoft Word, internet browsers, etc.) flag the unhyphenated word as a spelling error but accept the hyphenated version.

    • The Chicago Manual of Style‘s hyphenation guide says a hyphen should appear “to separate the repeated terms in a double prefix, such as sub-subentry.” Therefore, it seems that a hyphen could be acceptable in the word re-referral, even though it is technically not a double prefix. We would recommend a hyphen in accordance with our Rule 6 of Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes: “Writers often hyphenate prefixes when they feel a word might be distracting or confusing without the hyphen.”

  17. Barbara says:

    Just wondering about the word reinterview. The sentence used is, “Do I have to reinterview for the position if I already have the job?” Should reinterview be hyphenated?

  18. Robert says:

    Is it repurpose or re-purpose?

  19. Jasmine says:

    Just want to say thanks for this awesome rule, and I commend your patience over the years on this article.

  20. Sena says:

    Is it re-branding or rebranding?


  21. Heather says:

    reinspected or re-inspected

    I’m using in the following sentence:

    Enclosed are the following documents for the reinspected pre-acceptance sanitary sewer CCTV inspection performed on Month xx, 2017, for the above-referenced project:

  22. Shari says:

    Re-imagine OR reimagine? Your spell check says the former…

    • In accordance with this post and our Rules 3 and 5 of Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes, we would not hyphenate the word reimagine. Both the Associated Press Stylebook and Merriam-Webster omit the hyphen.

      The spell checker that you refer to is an advertiser, which we feel is one of the better spell checkers available. However, we do caution against using any spell or grammar checking tools as a single resource.

  23. Shanti Lasminingsih says:

    Is it re-review or rereview?

  24. Ann C. says:

    What about re-alignment? Is it realignment or re-alignment?

  25. Bree says:

    reenter vs. re-enter

  26. Julie says:

    I am writing student reports. Do I need a hyphen when I write the word reread?
    E.g., “She needs to reread/re-read the text for greater meaning.”

  27. Tim says:

    rebookings or re-bookings?

  28. Thare Houps says:

    Re-cently I re-read the re-peated, re-stated, and re-applied rules re-garding “re-” and “re”. Re-calculating, I re-ally re-considered re-educating myself by re-viewing re-viewers’ re-cognized re-nditions of said re-peated rules. Re-cognizing my own re-organized priorities re-garding re-enacting re-sponses to re-peated rules, I re-calculated my re-asoning. I now re-alize that “re-” is not re-ally as re-usable or re-gular as I once re-membered.

    Review in MS Word: 12 errors
    Review in Google Docs: 18 errors
    My review (thanks to my understanding of your rule): 26 errors (re-educating and re-enacting are accepted)

    • That’s an interesting observation of the difference between Word and Google Docs (we agree with your count, by the way). Of course, many of your re occurrences are not prefixes.

  29. Carla says:

    Re-certification or recertification?

  30. Sarah says:

    If someone is do a re-assessment course. Would it be re-assessment or reassessment?

  31. Steve says:

    Is it correct to write Squad car 1 return to base re – patrol in the northeastern area?

  32. Michael J Clarke says:

    Reset or Re-set?

  33. satnam says:

    Which is correct: reimagining, re-imagining, or re-imagining?

  34. Fiona Fraser-Thomson says:

    Another Scrabble fight! I refuse to “speak” American and therefore believe that the word reposted must be written with a hyphen, since it refers to an action being undertaken again. However, the Scrabble Dictionary apparently accepts reposted without the hyphen – whereas I would then pronounce it as reposted (even tho’ it would obviously be spelled as riposted). But then I suppose if the Scrabble Dictionary allows words like “za” (ridiculous!) and “el” (something to do with American railroads!), then we poor old dinosaurs who actually call themselves Philologists need to lie down and die! Since my surname is hyphenated, I shall cling on to the hyphen to the bitter end!

    • In our Rule 5 of Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes, we emphasize that a hyphen is needed with the prefix re when it causes confusion with another word. To us, it does not cause confusion with another word, and it is commonly used in relation to messages that are reposted online. In additon, our Rule 6 reads “Writers often hyphenate prefixes when they feel a word might be distracting or confusing without the hyphen.” Therefore, if it will spare you from lying down and dying, please insert the hyphen when you write the word.

    • Josh says:

      I’m responding as both an experienced competitive Scrabble player and someone who writes technical documentation professionally.
      While this is something like a Scrabble fight, it is not about speaking “American.” If you look at the respective Scrabble lexicons for (broadly speaking) North America and the “rest of the world,” you will find many more “ridiculous” words in the latter. Both have the words you mention — “za” and “el” — as well as “qi,” “mm,” and “pht,” to name but a few. But only the Collins “rest of the world” dictionary includes such lovelies as “ch,” “io,” “twp,” and “pwn.”
      All of this, however, reinforces your main premise: Do not use either Scrabble dictionary as an arbiter of good language.

  35. Jim Ray says:

    Reenable or re-enable?

    • Our Rule 3 of Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes says, “For clarity, many writers hyphenate prefixes ending in a vowel when the root word begins with the same letter.” Therefore, if you are unable to find the word in a dictionary, then it is your call as to whether you feel the word would be understood more clearly in context with or without the hyphen.

  36. Marisa says:

    In the Collins English dictionary, re-home is hyphenated but retrain isn’t… why is this please? I am writing an article with both words in it and am confused as to whether they should be hyphenated or not.

    • As a website specializing in American English, we cannot speak for Collins Dictionary (a British English dictionary). Sometimes there are no absolute rules to follow in every instance. As we mention in our Rule 6 of Hyphens Between Prefixes and Suffixes, “Writers often hyphenate prefixes when they feel a word might be distracting or confusing without the hyphen.” The editors at Collins may have felt that “re-home” needed a hyphen because “home” is not typically understood or interpreted as a verb, where “train” often can be.

  37. Rod says:

    Re-enrollment or Reenrollment?

    I just think the latter, while not being necessarily confused with another word, is just visually unappealing and slightly difficult to read…and the first word makes it clear that you’re being asked to enroll again.

  38. Martine says:

    Is it retest or re-test?

    I’m leaning towards retest based on your feedback above, but a client is insisting on using re-test. Thank you

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