Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"
Aubrey Carter
"3 Keys IELTS Certified Coach"

English punctuation can be very tricky!

Even natives don’t always understand how to punctuate compound adjectives.

We often get questions about punctuation.

In today’s episode, we share a common mistake and teach you how to master it in order to close the loop with your English.


Would you consider yourself a happy-go-lucky person?

Lindsay, in general, is a very happy person.

She shares that it was easier to be happier when she was younger.

She found that as she got older, she got more complicated.

  • happy-go-lucky: idiom meaning a person is very laid back and positive

A happy-go-lucky person doesn’t stress that much and it would take a lot to rattle them.

Aubrey is a very happy-go-lucky person.

Her presence is always light and calming.

Do you need hyphens?

The idiom happy-go-lucky must always be hyphenated.

Knowing whether to add hyphens is tricky.

Errors with this are very common, and even native English speakers get confused about it.

If a compound adjective comes before a noun, it must be hyphenated.

In today’s episode, we’ll break this down so you don’t get confused about when to hyphenate.

This matters when you are writing.

You want to make sure when you are writing that you are following the correct grammar rules.

Compound adjectives

Compound adjectives are made of two or more words.

An example of a compound adjective is “two-word.”

This is a two-word adjective.

In this sentence, ‘two-word’ is a compound adjective describing the noun ‘adjective.’

If this description comes after the noun, the grammar is very different.

This adjective is two words.

Here, ‘two’ is still an adjective, but ‘words’ is now a noun.


You delivered a first-rate presentation.

This is a very good adjective to use when you think a presentation is excellent.

These words should be learned in a chunk, as they are always compound adjectives.

Therefore, they must always be hyphenated.

The presentation is first-rate.

Deep-fried Oreos

This is a dessert that might be seen at a carnival or fair in the U.S.

Aubrey shares that she makes Oreo pancakes for her children.

Oreos are a popular cookie that she crushes up and puts in pancake batter.

This is a very sweet breakfast that is not at all healthy.

It is a rare treat and not something that would be eaten regularly.

Absent-minded professor

This has been the title of a movie so you may have heard it before.

“Absent-minded” means a person is not always focused and their mind wanders a lot.

It can be a stereotype of professors who can be absent-minded because they are focused on their area of expertise rather than basic things like cooking or doing laundry.

Similar compound adjectives are:

  • closed-minded
  • narrow-minded
  • open-minded
  • level-headed

All these are hyphenated because they are always used as compound adjectives.


Here is a quick roleplay to show the application of the tips shared in today’s episode.

In this scenario, Lindsay and Aubrey are at work and waiting for a meeting to begin.

Lindsay: Wow! Look at that four-page agenda.

Aubrey: Yikes! I am only a part-time employee, so I’m not sure if I’m supposed to attend this meeting.

Lindsay: I think you’re a level-headed person though, so they might need your feedback.


There are a lot of two-word adjectives that need to be hyphenated.

You should be aware of punctuation rules when writing.

Especially when you are writing in a business setting, you should be aware of the correct grammar rules.

This is one of the common mistakes that even native English speakers make.

If you are able to master this skill, you will bring your written English to a higher level.

You will get closer to your language learning goal.

What other words do you thinks are hyphenated?

Share it in the comments below.

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