Should there be a hyphen in the sentence, early '80s or should it be written without the hyphen between early and '80s?

  • 1
    The answer is Yes and No, depending on how "early 80s" is used. Could you give a couple of examples? – Andrew Leach Aug 22 '13 at 17:25
  • Every decade is different on the general usage of hyphens. the 1960's used them -all- the time, the 1990's hardly ever. It's a fashion pendulum. – Mitch Aug 22 '13 at 19:21

If you're using 80s as a noun, it should not have a hyphen, because we don't normally join adjectives (early) to nouns (80s) with hyphens:

  • He wrote that song in the early 80s.

If you're using early 80s as a compound adjective, a hyphen is optional, and (depending on context) can add clarity:

  • That's an early-80s song.

I think when it's used as an adjective, you use a hyphen: "That song you just wrote sounds so early-80s." I've been taught to do that when I want a phrase to serve as an adjective. I see it done in a lot of writing.

Side note: About the placement or omission of the apostrophe - I'm not sure.

  • It is not a possessive, so it doesn't need an apostrophe (although there was a tendency to include them when putting a plural "s" after digits). – TrevorD Aug 22 '13 at 23:43
  • If you are talking about the apostrophe before the plural s, it should not be there. If you are talking about the apostrophe before the 8, it should be there, at least according to the CMS. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 22 '13 at 23:58
  • @JanusBahsJacquet What's "the CMS" – TrevorD Aug 23 '13 at 18:55
  • @TrevorD, the Chicago Manual of Style (the only one I had quick online access to). Forgive me if that is not on the list of common reference abbreviations—I assumed it was without checking. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Aug 23 '13 at 22:31

It should be like early 80's and I don't think any hyphen is needed.


  • "Early" does not need a capital letter in mid-sentence. – TrevorD Aug 22 '13 at 23:41

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