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.

Answers:
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.

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114 Comments on Hyphens with the Prefix re

114 responses to “Hyphens with the Prefix re

  1. 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.

  2. Taylor says:

    How would you handle “enter again”? Would it be reenter or re-enter, and why?

    Thanks!

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. satnam says:

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

  6. Michael J Clarke says:

    Reset or Re-set?

  7. Steve says:

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

  8. Sue M says:

    I want to use the word Retreat as a product name. I currently have it on my website with a colon, but I don’t think that’s correct. The idea is to be able to “add your own “RE” word” to suit your needs. Come to a RE-treat so you can RE-evaluate your path, RE-connect with your inner happy self, RE-design your life. Not a typical use of “re” let alone with the words that follow, but I’m trying to find the iteration that suits most and seems the most clear. I’m guessing that’s not with a colon.

    • We’re unclear whether you mean “colon” or “hyphen.” As you probably know, the words retreat, reconnect, and redesign are spelled without a hyphen, while some use a hyphen in reevaluate. You may choose to spell a product name without regard to grammar rules. That is your choice. You could also mix in upper case letters with or without hyphens or colons as you indicated: REtreat, RE-connect, RE:design, etc.

  9. Sarah says:

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

  10. Carla says:

    Re-certification or recertification?

  11. Mark says:

    Can anyone tell me whether or no preauricular is hyphenated?

  12. 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.

  13. Tim says:

    rebookings or re-bookings?

  14. Ji Pem says:

    I have seen the word reenter and re-enter, which is correct? Can both be correct? Which is better?

  15. Sara says:

    Does re-inspection require a hyphen?

  16. 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.”

  17. Bree says:

    reenter vs. re-enter

  18. Ann C. says:

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

  19. Shanti Lasminingsih says:

    Is it re-review or rereview?

  20. 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.

  21. The examples given in the test above go against what was said in the explanations of the rule.

    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.

    Reserve is a word and so is serve but there is no hyphen

    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.

    Resent is a word and so is sent but there is a hyphen.

    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.

    Resign is a word and so is sign but there is a hyphen.

    I can’t stand when these kinds of websites give advice which is conflicting. Now I am more confused. I will have to re-check (or is it recheck) with another site.

  22. 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:

  23. Sena says:

    Is it re-branding or rebranding?

    Thanks.

  24. Jasmine says:

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

  25. Robert says:

    Is it repurpose or re-purpose?

  26. Nk says:

    Does this site help fix sentence such as grammar and punctuation

  27. Matt says:

    I had a game of scrabble where I used all the letters I had across two triple word scores. A nice high score. The person I was playing with refused to allow it because he said the re was hyphenated. I said that it was constructed following the rules in the OED. We argued for a long time then abandoned the game. The word was redepute as in to depute again. What is your opinion?

  28. 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?

  29. 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.”

  30. 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.

  31. Dee says:

    Hyphen or no hyphen?

    Readdress or re-address

    Ex: The court should readdress the issue.

  32. Jussi says:

    Thanks for the useful site!

    I use terms “gas-fired” and “coal-fired” in my work. What about sentences with multiple words:

    “Gas- coal- and oil-fired power plants”

    Correct?

    • Your suspended hyphens are correct. We recommend separating words in a simple series of three or more items with commas. Therefore, write “gas-, coal-, and oil-fired power plants.”

  33. Susan says:

    Now, 11 months later, it is slowly beginning to re-open/reopen in spite of police officials patrolling the area.
    Is it re-open or reopen?

  34. 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?

  35. 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?

  36. Elaine says:

    Is the “re” in restaurant considered a prefix?

  37. 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?

  38. 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

  39. 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).

  40. 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.

  41. James says:

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

    OED seems to suggest reselect

  42. Gary says:

    I came to this page while searching for the correct spelling for redeliver. I thought your rule was excellent, until I read your reply to Araz on November 28, 2013. Why would you use the hyphen in re-engineering? There is no confusion with another word. Is it due to the double “e” introduced with the prefix? Does this also apply to other instances; like re-elect, re-enact, etc.? If so, should your rule have the caveat that prefixing re to words beginning with “e” should be hyphenated?
    Excellent website.

    • The eleventh edition of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation (February 2014) recognizes that there is not always agreement among the authoritative references on many of the “rules” of grammar and punctuation. In the eleventh edition, we have included Rule 2 of Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes: “For clarity, many writers hyphenate prefixes ending in a vowel when the root word begins with the same letter.” The Associated Press Stylebook demands it: “use a hyphen if the prefix ends in a vowel and the word that follows begins with the same vowel.”

  43. 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.

  44. 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.

  45. 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.
    Hope to hear from you soon.
    Thank you.

  46. michael says:

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

  47. Margaret says:

    I do not agree with the given answer on number 9 in the quiz: reinjured vs. re-injured. Upon initially reading the word “reinjured”, it COULD be misconstrued as “rein”; I think here, it is appropriate to put the hyphen after “re-“.

    • Even if misconstrued as “rein,” it still would not form another word. Reinjured is a valid word which you can find listed as a “related form” to injure on Dictionary.com as well as in The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary.

  48. Hannah says:

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

    Thanks

  49. Harriet says:

    So useful, thanks!

  50. Jerry Everett says:

    Can anyone help us solve a raging debate at our company relating to hyphens?

    Do we use toll free conference calling OR toll-free conference calling?

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