How to Use English Punctuation Correctly-Part 3

/Hyphens and Dashes/

1.Use a hyphen when adding a prefix to some words. The purpose of this hyphen is to make the word easier to read. For instance, if you were to leave the hyphen out of the word re-examine, it would be reexamine, where the double “e” could be confusing. Many words do not require a hyphen to separate the prefix from the word, such as restate,pretest, and undo. Let a dictionary be your guide for when to use the hyphen after a prefix.

  • Here’s an example of good hyphen usage:

    Cara is his ex-girlfriend.

2.Use hyphens when creating compound words from several smaller words. If you’ve ever written about anything that’s gold-plated, radar-equipped, or one-size-fits-all, you’ve used a hyphen in this way. To build a long, descriptive word out of two or more component words, use hyphens to separate the “pieces” from each other.

  • Here’s an example of a hyphen used to build a compound word:

    The up-to-date newspaper reporters were quick to jump on the latest scandal.

3.Use a hyphen when writing numbers out as words. Separate the two words of any number under one hundred with a hyphen. Be careful with spelling out numbers above one hundred — if the number is used as an adjective, it is completely hyphenated, since all compound adjectives are hyphenated. (This is the one-hundredth episode). Otherwise, a hyphen should occur only if a number lower than 100 is embedded within a larger number, e.g., He lived to be one hundred twenty-one.

  • Don’t use “and” when writing numbers, as in “The amount is one hundred andeighty.” This is a common error in the US and Canada, where the “and” is usually omitted. Elsewhere in the English-speaking world, however, the “and” can be included.
  • Here are two examples of hyphens being used in numbers below and above one hundred, respectively:

    There are fifty-two playing cards in a deck.

    The packaging advertised one thousand two hundred twenty-four firecrackers, but it contained only one thousand.

4.Use a dash when making a brief interruption within a statement. The dash (“–” or “—”) is slightly longer than the hyphen and is used to convey a sudden change of thought, an additional comment, or a dramatic qualification within a sentence. It can also be used to add a parenthetical statement for further clarification, but this should still be relevant to the sentence. Otherwise, use parentheses. Keep in mind that the rest of the sentence should still flow naturally as if the dashed material were not there.

  • To judge whether a dash is appropriate, try to remove the words between the dashes. If the sentence appears disjointed or does not make sense, you may need to revise it instead of using the dashes.
  • There should be spaces before and after a dash in British English.
  • Here are two examples of proper dash usage:

    An introductory clause is a brief phrase that comes — yes, you guessed it — at the beginning of a sentence.

    This is the end of our sentence — or so we thought.

5.Use a hyphen to split a word between two lines. Though this use is not as common today, the hyphen (“-“) was once a common punctuation mark on typewriters, used when a long word had to be split between two lines. This system is still seen in some books, but the justification capacity of computer word processing programs has made this rarer.

  • Here’s an example of a hyphen being used to split a word that’s cut into two pieces by a line break:

    No matter what he tried, he just couldn’t get the novel’s elec-
    trifying surprise ending out of his head

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