Most writers understand hyphens on a basic level, but the subtle intricacies of where they do and do not appear remain a source of confusion, even for professionals and those with a wealth of writing experience.
While there are many rules that govern hyphenation, most of them have plenty of exceptions, and some sources recommend adding hyphens to compound phrases any time it would minimize confusion. Still, there are some set phrases and other situations where hyphens are always necessary.
Up-to-date is a great example. This phrase can be used as both an adverb and an adjective, and hyphenation allows us to easily tell which is which.
What is the Difference Between Up to Date and Up-to-Date?
In this article, I will compare up to date vs. up-to-date. I will use each of these phrases in a few example sentences, so you can see them in context.
Plus, I will show you a helpful tool, called a mnemonic device, which will allow you to more easily choose between up-to-date and up to date.
When to Use Up to Date
What does up to date mean? Up to date is an adverb phrase that describes an action that brings something in line with the latest information.
You can see a few examples below,
- “Have you brought your time sheet up to date yet?” asked Sheila’s supervisor.
- “Be ready to bring us up to date on the progress of your midcycle review at the next teleconference,” advised the director.
- Sean quickly brought his colleagues up to date on the latest developments in the field of cellular microbiology, a discussion in which none of them was very interested.
- These audits are part of the government’s continuing efforts to ensure that official data are immune to political interference and to help keep the process up to date in response to changing technology and an evolving economy, Groshen said. –The Washington Post
Since the unhyphenated up to date functions an adverb, you will usually find it around verbs.
When to Use Up-to-Date
What does up-to-date mean? Up-to-date is an adjective phrase that is used as a synonym for current. Something that is up-to-date contains the most recent information available.
See the sentences below for examples,
- The new edition of Kate’s book has the most up-to-date information available on the science of horse nutrition.
- Up-to-date reporting is available around the clock at various news websites, some of which have questionable journalistic integrity.
- “Is this the most up-to-date estimate?” asked the budget-conscious project manager.
- Her longevity is putting a spotlight on the medical care, nutrition and up-to-date therapeutic techniques that are helping lengthen zoo animals’ lives. –New York Post
Since the hyphenated up-to-date functions as an adjective, you will usually find it appearing before a noun.
Trick to Remember the Difference
Since hyphenation is the only way to distinguish between the adverb and adjective uses of this phrase, remembering which is which might seem fairly difficult.
However, many other adjective phrases are hyphenated, too, so the hyphenation can be the clue you need to keep these usages straight in your mind.
Up-to-date and over-the-counter are both phrases that undergo hyphenation when used as adjectives. By remembering this similar hyphenation, you can remember that up-to-date is an adjective.
Is it up to date or up-to-date? Up to date and up-to-date are phrases that involve making things current.
- Up to date is used as an adverb.
- Up-to-date is used as an adjective.
Choosing up-to-date or up to date doesn’t have to be difficult. Since up-to-date follows the same hyphenation rules as another adjective phrase, over-the-counter, you can use this rule to remember the proper way to use up-to-date.
Remember, if you run into trouble, you can always review this article to bring yourself back up to speed.