How to hyphenate words that start with ‘re’

In words beginning with ‘re’, a hyphen can make a big difference. For example:

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen re-signs
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen resigns 

If you miss out the hyphen, suddenly Hansen’s leaving, rather than signing up for another 3 years.

Image, Steve Hansen, All Black coach.

Steve Hansen. Image by Mattevansnz / CC BY

When do you use a hyphen with ‘re’?

Use a hyphen with ‘re’ when both of these apply:

In the example above, to ‘re-sign’ means to sign again. And if you left the hyphen out, you’d cause confusion with the word ‘resign’. Therefore, use a hyphen.

Commonly confused ‘re’ words

recover (Rest and fluids help you recover quickly.)
re-cover (I must re-cover the sofa.)

reserve (Let’s reserve a table at the restaurant.)
re-serve (The tennis player will re-serve.)

repress (Don’t repress your emotions.)
re-press (You need to re-press that shirt.)

resent (I resent your accusations.)
re-sent (The email didn’t arrive so it was re-sent.)

relay (I’ll relay your complaints to management.)
re-lay (The contractor will re-lay the carpet.)

4 responses to “How to hyphenate words that start with ‘re’”

  1. Hi Ed — I wouldn’t hyphenate it as it’s clear enough without. Here at Write we often make style decisions based on what is easiest for the reader. If a vowel is repeated (such as ‘reenter’), then a hyphen stops you reading it incorrectly. I don’t think that’s a problem for ‘reunite’. But to back this up, I checked the online Oxford Dictionary and it doesn’t hyphenate it either (https://www.lexico.com/definition/reunite).

  2. Ed Parigian says:

    Nice work on this…very clear. What do you think of hyphenating reunite to re-unite, as is re-uniting with my lost dog?

  3. Chris Lovie-Tyler says:

    Great blog. It’s helpful, to the point—and I enjoy reading it!

    Thanks!

    • Corinna Lines says:

      I’m glad you liked it, Chris! And I do apologise for exploiting rugby for the greater hyphenation good.

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