Writing Tip: Dashes and Hyphens

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Dashes and Hyphens

Hyphens and dashes, specifically en-dashes and em-dashes, have specific functions. They are not interchangeable, and it is helpful to learn to use them correctly.

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Hyphens (-)

A hyphen connects two words that are closely related and function together as a single concept. It makes compound words clearer and easier to read and helps remove confusion if the two words could have a different meaning if not linked with a hyphen.

Examples:

  • That’s a high-rise building.
  • She wore a low-cut dress.
  • Read this real-estate article.
  • He made a toll-free call.
  • It has thirty-three pages.
  • That’s my great-grandfather.

In general, compound words are typically hyphenated before a noun, but not after a noun.

Examples:

  • It’s a part-time job. / The job is part time.
  • That is a free-standing pole. / That pole is free standing.
  • It was a barbed-wire fence. / The fence was barbed wire.

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En-dashes…

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