Some strong examples of semantic changes caused by the placement of hyphens:
- Disease-causing poor nutrition, meaning poor nutrition that causes disease
- Disease causing poor nutrition, meaning a disease that causes poor nutrition
- A man-eating shark is a shark that eats humans.
- A man eating shark is a man who is eating shark meat.
- A blue-green sea is a sea whose color is somewhere between blue and green.
- A blue green sea is a contradiction, unless "blue" or "green" are used contextually to mean something other than a color.
- Three-hundred-year-old trees are an indeterminate number of trees that are 300 years old.
- Three hundred-year-old trees are three trees that are 100 years old.
- Three hundred year-old trees are 300 trees that are 1 year old.