Hyphens and Dashes

By: Brandon Wilkins, Casey Greene, and Caden Harris

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  • They are used to make some compound words.

    • Like great-great-grandfather, maid-in-waiting, and three-year-old.

  • Use a hyphen to form new words beginning with the prefixes self-, ex-, all-, and half-. Also use a hyphen to join any prefix to a proper noun, a proper adjective, or the official name of an office. Use a hyphen before the suffix -elect.

    • self-contained ex-governor all-inclusive half-painted

    • pre-Cambrian mid-December president-elect

  • Use a hyphen to join the prefix great- only to the names of relatives.

    • great-aunt great-grandfather

  • Hyphens can be used to separate numbers from words in sentences, such as “She has stopped buying 2-liter bottles and has started buying 0.5 liter bottles, instead.”

  • Use a hyphen to join two or more words that serve as a single adjective (a single-thought adjective) before a noun.

    • In real life I am a large, big boned woman with rough, man-working hands.

  • Use common sense to determine whether a compound adjective might be misread.

    • a phrase heat-and-serve meal off-and-on relationship

    • a noun + adjective oven-safe handles book-smart students

    • a noun + participle (ing or ed form of a verb) bone-chilling story

  • Hyphens can also be used to separate numbers such as ninety- nine or forty-four

  • Use a hyphen to join a capital letter or lowercase letter to a noun or participle.

    • T-shirt Y-turn G-rated x-axis


Near the semester's end-and this is not always due to poor planning-some students may find themselves in a real crunch.

To set off an Introductory Series

A good book, a cup of tea, a comfortable chair-these things always saved my mother’s sanity.

To Set Off and Emphasize Parenthetical Material

A single incident-a tornado that came without warning-changed the face of the small town forever.

To indicate Interrupted Speech

Why-why are you doing this to me?

For other emphasis

After several hours of hearing the high-pitched yipping, Petra finally realized what it was-coyote pups.