Common mistake missing hyphen in 'off key'

Common Grammar Mistakes: Missing Hyphens


Often, when writing, we tend to overlook certain grammatical rules and end up making mistakes without realizing it. One of the most common errors is the misuse or neglect of hyphens. Hyphens play a crucial role in connecting words and phrases, and their absence can result in confusion or ambiguity. In this article, we will focus on the significance of hyphens and address the common mistake of missing hyphens.

The Importance of Hyphens

Hyphens are used to connect words or parts of words in order to clarify meaning. They can enhance the readability and comprehension of a sentence. Whether used in compound adjectives or forming new words, hyphens provide clarity and prevent confusion.

Common Mistake: Missing Hyphens

One of the most prevalent errors is the omission of hyphens when needed. This often occurs when forming compound adjectives or adverbs. Let's take a look at an example:

Incorrect: I heard him singing an \1 key song. Correct: I heard him singing an off-key song.

In the incorrect sentence, the absence of a hyphen between "off" and "key" changes the meaning completely. "Off key" is a compound adjective meaning "out of tune," whereas "off" and "key" separated by a space could refer to something unrelated. To convey the intended meaning accurately, it is necessary to use the hyphen.

Using Hyphens Correctly

To avoid making this common mistake, it is important to understand when and where to use hyphens. Here are a few guidelines:

  • Use a hyphen to connect compound adjectives before a noun: She wore a well-tailored dress.
  • Use a hyphen in compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine: She bought thirty-five notebooks.
  • Use a hyphen when two or more words are used together to form a new word or phrase: high-speed internet, eco-friendly.
  • Use a hyphen for clarity in certain cases, such as re-reading (to distinguish from reading again) or recovering (to distinguish from covering again).

Remember, using hyphens correctly can significantly improve the clarity and readability of your writing.


Correct hyphen usage is essential for effective communication. By avoiding the common mistake of missing hyphens, you can ensure that your writing is clear, concise, and easily understood.

Linguix grammar checker offers a reliable solution for checking and correcting grammar mistakes, including missing hyphens, ensuring that your writing adheres to the standards of proper grammar and punctuation.

missing hyphen in 'off key' mistake examples

  • Incorrect:
    Once every candle burned brightly, an off key chorus began to sing a song.

    Once every candle burned brightly, an off-key chorus began to sing a song.

  • Incorrect:
    He sang off key.

    He sang off-key.

  • Correct:
    Now they must sell off key assets to stay afloat.
  • Correct:
    In 2008, Intel spun off key assets of a solar startup business effort to form an independent company.
  • Correct:
    The battery light and oil light normally stays on constantly with engine off key on.
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