Even the sticklers who can spot a stray apostrophe a mile off may struggle over when to use a hyphen.
But help is at hand for those who are unsure of where to put one.
A study of more than 10,000 words, including hyphens, has found that four basic rules will work 75 per cent of the time.
If word is a verb, adjective or adverb, it probably needs hyphen (like chain-smoke)
If second part has more letters, it should be spelt as one word (like coastline)
Line has more letters than coast does it?
But more than that, what requires the hyphen changes over time. Two separate words, then with the hyphen, then the migration to the one word. Sure, English doesn’t quite do as German, sticking old words together at the drop of a hat to describe some new thing. Nor does it do as Russian (say) seemingly inventing a new word for every new occurrence. Rather, we do a bit of both, and that agglutinating (?) is something that happens over time, decades.
You know, market system, try things out, see what flies, adopt what works?