Use Adjective-Forming Hyphens When Combining Two or More Words to Form an Adjective That Appears Before the Word It Modifies

When you combine two or more words to form an adjective that appears before the noun it modifies, use hyphens to connect the adjective-forming words together.

First-time filmmaker Marc Webb did not want to direct a romantic comedy—until he saw the screenplay for (500) Days of Summer, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber. The first few lines were these: “Any resemblance to people living or dead is purely accidental. Especially Jenny Beckman. Bitch.” “I liked that,” Mr. Webb says. “It’s fun, and it says, this movie is going to be a little bit different. You might have to engage a little more.” The film was a hit and may someday be regarded as a classic—Roger Ebert gave it the top-rated 4 stars. Mr. Webb himself says, “I don’t think this is a profoundly probing movie, but it’s a simple movie that speaks a little bit of the truth, and just dances with reality and is fun.”

Sometimes, achieving great success at a young age can lead to the problem of continually being asked about your early work despite all the good work you have done since then. One day, Orson Welles and Norman Mailer were having dinner when Mr. Mailer asked Mr. Welles a question about Citizen Kane, which Mr. Wells had created at age 25. Mr. Welles groaned and said, “Oh, Norman, not Citizen Kane.” At first, Mr. Mailer was surprised, but then he realized what was the problem and said, mentioning his own youthful world-class work of art, “Mmm, yeah—it’s like me and The Naked and the Dead.” Other people also realized the burden that very great and very early success can have on a person. After seeing Citizen Kane, impresario Billy Rose told Mr. Welles, “Quit, kid—you’ll never top it.”

Actor Will Smith is known as a rapper, TV star, and movie star. He is also known for his ears, and he says that when he was a kid, he resembled Alfred E. Newman, the funny-looking character who graces the covers of Mad magazine. In fact, one of young Will’s friends told him that he “looked like a car with the doors open.” Today, as a major film star, Will knows exactly where to give the credit for his success: “It’s the ears! Americans have an ear fetish. Absolutely. Americans love people with big ears—Mickey Mouse, Goofy, Ross Perot. America loves ears.”

One of the ways that comedian Whoopi Goldberg knew that she was beginning to make it big was that caricaturist Harry Hirschfeld worked his art on her in The New York Times while she was appearing on a one-woman show on Broadway. Mr. Hirschfeld traditionally hides his daughter’s name—Nina—in his caricatures, and in his caricature of Ms. Goldberg he wrote “Nina” 40 times. Ms. Goldberg was so pleased with Mr. Hirschfeld’s caricature that she sent him flowers.

German artist Käthe Kollwitz once drew a portrait of herself and Peter, her seven-year-old son. The pose necessitated that she hold her son while drawing with one hand for long periods of time. This sometimes made her groan, but Peter would tell her, “Don’t worry, Mother. It will be beautiful.” In fact, the finished work of art is beautiful.

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