Andy Bell asked a great question about when to use a hyphen:
Hyphens. Sometimes you use them when you put a verb and and a noun together, but not always? What’s the rule? Is it carbon-tipped? Is it Horse-drawn?
While there are a few proper uses of the hyphen, the one Andy is referring to is for a compound adjective in the pre-nominal position. In other words, the hyphen goes between multiple-word adjectives when they precede the word that they are modifying. We don’t use a hyphen, however, if one of the modifiers is an adverb ending in -ly.
- The bride and groom rode through town in a horse–drawn carriage.
- The employee at the hardware store recommended a carbon–tipped saw blade.
- Joan was glad that her saw blade was carbon tipped.
- Ben knew the most effective door–to–door sales techniques.
- After he graduated from college, Ben sold kitchen knives door to door.
Notice that “carbon tipped” in sentence 3 and “door to door” in sentence 5 do not have hyphens, because they do not come directly before nouns.