Hyphens between Words (with Examples)
Hyphens (Not Dashes) between WordsThose "dashes" between words are usually hyphens not dashes. This page explains when to use hyphens between words.
|Name||Punctuation||How To Get One|
|em dash||—||Ctl + Alt + minus (on the numeric pad)|
|minus sign||−||minus (on the numeric pad)|
|en dash||–||Ctl + minus (on the numeric pad)|
|hyphen||-||- (the key to the right of "0")|
Read about using dashes.
When To Use a HyphenHyphens have two main functions:
(1) To join words to show they are a single entity.
- ice-axe (This is one thing. The hyphen makes it clear that we're not talking about an axe made of ice.)
- cooking-oil (This is one thing. The hyphen makes it clear that oil is not cooking, i.e., getting hot)
- free-range eggs ("Free-range" is one adjective. The hyphen makes it clear that the eggs are not free. It also makes the text easier to read.)
- twenty four-page leaflets ("Four-page" is one adjective. The hyphen makes it clear that each leaflet has four pages. It also makes the text easier to read.)
(2) To act as a separator within a word for clarity or readability.
- re-press (The hyphen makes it clear that the meaning is "to press again" and not "repress" as in "to put down by force.")
- re-establish (This is easier to read than "reestablish.")
More about Hyphens in Words
Examples of Using Hyphens between WordsListed below are the main uses of hyphens:
(1) To form a compound noun.
- Being married means I can eat ice-cream in bed. (Brad Pitt)
- Pass me the plastic wire-fastener.
(2) To form a compound adjective.
- It's only a three-seater aircraft.
- It will be a never-to-be-forgotten experience.
- They had a twenty-year-old cat.
(3) To remove ambiguity with adjectives.
- It is a heavy-metal detector. (The hyphen makes it clear the device detects heavy metals as opposed to being a heavy device.)
- It is a broken-heart pendant. (The hyphen makes it clear the pendant is of a broken heart as opposed to being a broken pendant.)
- He is the best-known actor. (The hyphen makes it clear he is not the best actor of the known actors.)
- There are more-important things in life. (The hyphen makes it clear that more modifies important and not things.)
- She is an extremely-happy dog.
- She is a very-happy dog.
- The winner typically cheese-chases at 20 mph.
- He needed to gate-vault the obstacle.
- James spent the evening in hospital after he happy-slapped a bystander, who turned out to be a champion boxer.
- This issue is a real no-brainer.
- three hundred twenty-four
(8) When writing fractions in full.
Hyphens Are Not Meant to be Used for RangesHyphens are not meant to be used for ranges (e.g., 12-14, 2001- 2010). Dashes are used for this purpose. However, given that the hyphen is so easy to find on a keyboard, hyphens have become acceptable for ranges. Only a very strict grammar pedant would pull you up for using hyphens. If this were to happen, you could make a good case for the pedant being out of date.
Read about dashes between numbers.