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A comprehensive rundown on the proper use of the hyphen.

For information on dashes and other punctuation, see our handout Semicolons, Parentheses, Dashes, Quotation Marks, and Italics.

Two words brought together as a compound may be written separately, written as one word, or connected by hyphens. For example, three modern dictionaries all have the same listings for the following compounds:

Another modern dictionary, however, lists hairstylist, not hair stylist. Compounding is obviously in a state of flux, and authorities do not always agree in all cases, but the uses of the hyphen offered here are generally agreed upon.

  • Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving as a single adjective before a noun: a one-way street chocolate-covered peanuts well-known author However, when compound modifiers come after a noun, they are not hyphenated: The peanuts were chocolate covered. The author was well known.
  • Use a hyphen with compound numbers: forty-six sixty-three Our much-loved teacher was sixty-three years old.
  • Use a hyphen to avoid confusion or an awkward combination of letters: re-sign a petition (vs. resign from a job) semi-independent (but semiconscious) shell-like (but childlike)
  • Use a hyphen with the prefixes ex- (meaning former), self-, all-; with the suffix -elect; between a prefix and a capitalized word; and with figures or letters: ex-husband self-assured mid-September all-inclusive mayor-elect anti-American T-shirt pre-Civil War mid-1980s
  • Use a hyphen to divide words at the end of a line if necessary, and make the break only between syllables: pref-er-ence sell-ing in-di-vid-u-al-ist
  • For line breaks, divide already-hyphenated words only at the hyphen: mass- produced self- conscious
  • For line breaks in words ending in -ing, if a single final consonant in the root word is doubled before the suffix, hyphenate between the consonants; otherwise, hyphenate at the suffix itself: plan-ning run-ning driv-ing call-ing
  • Never put the first or last letter of a word at the end or beginning of a line, and don't put two-letter suffixes at the beginning of a new line: lovely (Do not separate in a way which leaves ly beginning a new line.) eval-u-ate (Separate only on either side of the u; do not leave the initial e- at the end of a line.)

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Hyphens and Dashes: When to Use Hyphens and Dashes in Writing (Examples)

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Wondering what the difference between hyphens and dashes is? And how to use each one? Look no further—this article will teach you everything you need to know.

In short, hyphens connect words together, while dashes can vary in use, depending on whether it's an em dash or an en dash.

This guide is part of our free online Grammar Book .

What Are Hyphens and Dashes?

Hyphens and dashes are two forms of punctuation that look like a short line in the middle of a sentence or a word. Hyphens are the shortest, followed by en dashes and em dashes. They all serve a completely different purpose.

In this article, you're going to learn the difference between the two and how to use each one.

When to Use Hyphens

Hyphens are a form of punctuation that's used to connect words. They look like a short line between two words and help show that they belong together.

Here are the different scenarios in which you should use a hyphen:

  • With compound words
  • To connect a word with its prefix
  • With numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine
  • Connect part of a word with its other part if it's split in two due to a line break

Let's take a look at each of these scenarios one-by-one.

With Compound Words

Compound words are two words that are connected because they complement each other in meaning. Two prevalent types of compound words are compound nouns (like father-in-law) and compound adjectives (like fast-paced), but there are others, too.

  • When a hyphen connects two words, it indicates they should be read together as one word because their combined meaning differs from their meaning as separate words .

Take the following sentence, for example:

My great-grandmother always buys me cake.

The hyphen between the adjective 'great' and the noun 'grandmother' tells us that the writer is talking about their relative three generations older—their mother's mother's mother.

Now consider the following sentence:

My great grandmother always buys me cake.

The lack of a hyphen between 'great' and 'grandmother' implies the two words are not connected and should be read separately. In this case, the writer is now talking about their relative two generations older—their mother's mother—and how great she is.

In the first sentence, you've got the noun 'great-grandmother,' and in the second one, you have a separate adjective and noun.

Here are some examples of compound words connected by a hyphen:

The job involves 35-hour workweeks. Let's play on the go-carts! I'm heading to the check-in desk to start queuing. 

There are many examples of compound nouns where a hyphen is no longer used. It has been dropped over time, and the two words are now joined together. These are called closed compound nouns, and some examples include ' nighttime ' and 'notebook.'

There are also open compound nouns, where the words are separate and don't have a hyphen. ' High school ' and 'full moon' are two examples.

Connect a Word With Its Prefix

In the same way that a hyphen connects two words, it can connect a word with its prefix, which is not a standalone word. Prefixes are a group of letters attached to the beginning of a word to form a new word.

Here are some common prefixes:

Here are some example sentences where a hyphen connects a prefix to a word to form a new meaning:

We're launching a bi-weekly newsletter. The movie takes place in a post -apocalyptic warzone.

Not all prefixes are connected to words using a hyphen. There are many cases where the hyphen has been dropped over time, like with the words 'extraordinary' and 'international,' for instance.

Numbers Between Twenty-One and Ninety-Nine

This section's title says it all: when writing numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine, you should connect the two numbers with a hyphen.

This only applies when spelling out numbers. You don't need to hyphenate numerals . 

Here are some examples of famous song lyrics that contain numbers that should be hyphenated if spelled out:

I've got ninety-nine problems. — Jay-Z Those were the best days of my life, back in the summer of sixty-nine. — Bryan Adams Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I'm sixty-four? — The Beatles

You may have noticed that an em dash was used to attribute the lyrics to their author, which we'll discuss later.

End-of-Line Hyphenation

If you get to the end of a line and don't have space to write the whole word, you might need to use a hyphen to split the word in two. It's simple: write as much of the word as you have space for, insert a hyphen, then write the rest of the word on the following line.

It'll look something like this:

Dear Amy, I'm writing to you from Bali, where I'm spen- ding two weeks on vacation. What a wonder- ful place! Wish you were here. XO, Jane

This is a much rarer scenario than it used to be since word processors nowadays tend to adjust this automatically for you and transfer the whole word to the following line. But you can adjust the settings to change this, and besides, you can use this practice with handwriting.

If you do decide to adhere to this practice, make sure you educate yourself properly on the correct way to split words up. You can't place the hyphen just anywhere!

When to Use Dashes

Now let's talk about the dash. It is similar in appearance to the hyphen, but it's a little longer. There are two types of dash: the em dash (—), the longest of the two, and the en dash (–), which is shorter but still longer than a hyphen. These two types of dash can serve several purposes, all of which we'll get into now.

What Are En Dashes?

We'll start with the en dash, which is slightly longer than the hyphen yet shorter than the em dash.

You can use it to:

  • show ranges of numbers
  • replace the word 'to.'

Let's take a more in-depth look at each of these.

Show Ranges of Numbers

You can use an en dash to show the connection when writing a range of numbers in numerals. This works with dates, times, page numbers, scores, etc.

Here are some examples:

The local team took home the cup with a 3–0 score.  We've booked in the consultant for an hour 1.00pm–2.00pm. Your homework for next week is to read pages 101–136.

Replace the Word 'To'

The en dash can replace the word 'to' and show linkages between two terms.

The Toronto–New York leg of the journey was particularly tiring. Our friendship resembles a brother–sister relationship. The Kennedy–Nixon debates took place in 1960.

What Are Em Dashes?

While we got through the uses of the en dash fairly quickly, the em dash will take us slightly longer because it is used considerably more often.

The longest of the line-style punctuation marks, the em dash can be used to:

  • indicate a pause
  • in place of parentheses
  • in place of colons
  • show an interruption
  • attribute a quote to its author

Indicate a Pause

You can use an em dash to indicate a pause in a sentence. It's stronger than a comma but not quite as long as the pause is commanded by a period or semicolon .

  • The main reason you might want to do this is to add a new sentence within your sentence.
  • You can always use commas to do this, but things can get messy if there are already a few commas in your sentence.
  • That's when an em dash comes in; it provides a little clarity .

Take a look at the following sentence, for example:

We entered the escape room, chosen based on your recommendation, and were instructed to remove our shoes, turn off our phones, grab a chalkboard and write down our names.

This sentence is perfectly fine, but there are four commas, so its appearance can be improved somewhat by using em dashes instead of commas, like such:

We entered the escape room—chosen based on your recommendation—and were instructed to remove our shoes, turn off our phones, grab a chalkboard and write down our names.

This also has the added benefit of drawing attention to the part of the sentence in between dashes.

In Place of Parentheses

You can use em dashes if you want to add specificity or detail to your sentence or modify an item. In this way, it resembles parentheses , allowing you to add nonessential information to the sentence. Em dashes will make the information a more integrated part of the sentence than parentheses.

I headed to the kitchen at lunchtime for my first meal of the day—I never eat breakfast—despite the fact I wasn't feeling hungry at all. Lighting a candle—lavender, her favorite scent—she began her evening skincare routine. We struggled up the steep road—it's given me trouble since I was a kid—and finally arrived home, exhausted.

In Place of Colons

Em dashes can also replace colons when introducing a list or drawing particular attention to a word in the sentence. The em dash is less formal and is best used when the list or item being introduced is at the end of the sentence.

For example:

At long last I saw her, standing there in the pouring rain—my best friend. I've been waiting a long time to tell you this—I love you. They play many kinds of music there—garage, grunge and jazz, to name a few. 

Show an Interruption

Em dashes are handy for showing an interruption in dialogue or train of thought. They indicate a sudden break, as opposed to ellipses that suggest a gradual trailing off. It's often used when reporting direct speech.

Here's an example of someone interrupting themselves in direct speech:

"I'm just boarding the train now so I should arrive at—" "Sally, are you there?" "Sorry, there was an announcement. They're saying the train has been canceled ."

Here's another example, still with direct speech, but this time with the speaker being interrupted by somebody else.

"I don't agree that dogs are more loyal than—" "Oh, not this again! How many times must we have this conversation?"

Attribute a Quote to its Author

When quoting someone else's words, you'll want to attribute the quote to them. This goes for famous quotes, song lyrics, speech extracts, etc. In short, any time you use someone else's words. Em dashes help you do that.

"The only time you can change someone is when they are in diapers." —Kris Carr . “There's no place like home.” — The Wizard of Oz, 1939 "Enthusiasm makes up for a host of deficiences. " — A Promised Land by Barack Obama

A Few Notes on Using Dashes

Before we conclude, I wanted to mention a couple of things.

First , whether or not you use spaces around your dashes is a stylistic choice. Consult your editor to find out your company's practice, or if you write for yourself , make your own choice, then stick to it.

  • Consistency is the most important thing here.

The second thing is that while dashes are great forms of punctuation — they're very versatile and help make your writing more precise—it's important not to overuse them. Because they often mark a pause in the sentence, using too many can create a stop-and-start rhythm in your text that will surely make your readers' head spin! Where possible, combine dashes with other forms of punctuation. After all, variety is the spice of life.

Concluding Thoughts on Hyphens and Dashes

That concludes this article on the use of hyphens and dashes. I hope you found it helpful.

Let's summarize what we've learned:

  • Hyphens and dashes are forms of punctuation that look like a line. 
  • Hyphens are the shortest line, followed by en dashes, then em dashes.
  • There is one kind of hyphen. En dashes and em dashes are the two kinds of dashes.
  • To connect words is a hyphen's primary job.
  • En dashes show ranges and replaces the word 'to.'
  • Em dashes indicate a pause or an interruption, replace a colon or a comma  or attribute a quote to its author.
  • Use dashes sparingly to preserve their potency.

If you enjoyed this article, you might like our other articles in our Grammar Book , a free online database that covers English grammar from A to Z.

Learn More:

  • Commas: When to Use Commas in Writing (Examples)
  • Colons: When to Use Colons in Writing (Examples)
  • Quotation Marks: When to Use Quotation Marks in Writing (Examples)
  • Ellipses: When to Use Ellipses in Writing (Examples)
  • Slash: When to Use Slash in Writing (Examples)
  • Periods: When to Use Periods in Writing (Examples)
  • Exclamation Points: When to Use Exclamation Points in Writing (Examples)
  • Semicolons: When to Use Semicolons in Writing (Examples)
  • Parentheses: When to Use Parentheses in Writing (Examples)
  • Brackets: When to Use Brackets in Writing (Examples)
  • English Mechanics 101: What Are Writing Mechanics? (Definition and Examples)
  • Modal Verbs: What Are Modal Verbs? Definition and Examples
  • Transitive and Intransitive Verbs: Definition and Examples
  • Parallelism: What Is Parallelism? Definition and Examples
  • Abbreviations: What Are Abbreviations? Definition and Examples

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how to use a hyphen in creative writing

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When should you use a hyphen?

Masooma Memon

Masooma Memon

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

You’d most commonly recognize a hyphen as the punctuation mark or “small dash” between words that you create yourself. Like this one: good-vibes-spreading-things .

You could use it in, let’s say, a case where you’re discussing things that give you only good vibes. Instead of saying things that give me good vibes, each time you talk about such a thing, you can use the hyphenated (read: hyphen-containing) word.

In this sense, you can say that writers use hyphens to join words, creating versions of new glued-together words. In other cases, a hyphen is a necessity to tell your reader the words go together as in glued-together that I used in the previous sentence.

In still other cases, there are some ground rules to use hyphens. Not to forget, certain words are born hyphenated. Mother-in-law and editor-in-chief are two examples of hyphenated words.

Simply put, there are different ways you can use a hyphen. And in this post, we’ll tell you exactly how.

Ready to sharpen your hyphen-using skill? Let’s roll.

On a side note, a hyphen is pronounced as hai·fn (haɪ.fən/) or HY + fuhn

What is a hyphen?

A hyphen is a small dash-like punctuation mark that connects separate words together.

Basically, hyphens are joiners used in varying cases including:

•  Joining words to indicate combined meaning

•  Adding in a sentence’s grammar (example: attention-seeking group )

•  Suggesting a missing element (example: in the short- and long-haul )

That said, when you go about using hyphens, the technique is called hyphenation. Similarly, words containing hyphens are called hyphenated words.

Hyphens are essential punctuation marks in a writer’s toolkit as they tell readers what words come together — better indicating what you’re saying.

Look at this example:

The rose-bearing garden was lush at this time of the year.

Know what’s wrong in that sentence? A reader can’t understand your description of the garden. They’d assume you’re using bearing to describe the garden. In reality, you mean rose-bearing to tell readers the garden is full of roses.

So the correct version is:

The rose-bearing garden was lush at this time of the year.

What does a hyphen look like?

A hyphen looks like a small dash or minus sign.

Hyphen: (-)

Since it looks like the minus sign, it’s also commonly referred to as the negative or -.

You’ll find a dedicated hyphen key on your keyboard. However, if you select the key and press enter, the hyphen sign will turn into a long, em dash in Mac.

A good way to avoid this issue is to remember that there’s no space around a hyphen. So whenever you’re using it, you don’t need to press enter at all.

Is a hyphen a dash?

A hyphen is a small dash, yes. But bear in mind that:

•  A hyphen is different from the en and em dashes

•  A hyphen can’t be used interchangeably with these dashes

Let’s get into the weeds of the matter. A quick recap: an en dash (–) is a medium-length dash that’s approximately the same width as the letter N . An em is the longest dash (—). In comparison, a hyphen is the shortest dash in the family.

Short dash, Hyphen. Medium-length dash, en dash. Longest dash - em dash.

Beside the length, there’s also a difference of function (use) and spacing.

A hyphen comes between words with the aim of combining them — telling readers they’re one unit. You’ll learn more of when to use a hyphen below. An en dash shows a range in dates and numbers. Lastly, an em dash is used in place of comma, parenthesis, and colons. It helps writers sound more conversational in their writing — we discuss the em dash at length here .

Heads-up : The AP style guide uses hyphens for date and number ranges. The Chicago Manual of Style leans toward using en dash for the same.

As for the spacing in case of hyphen vs. dash, there’s never space around a hyphen. Depending on your brand or company’s style guide , there may or may not be space on either side of the en and em dashes.

When and how to use a hyphen

Before we dive into the depth of using a hyphen, here’s a primer:

•  Hyphens are used based on grammatical rules in several instances.

•  In certain cases, the writer needs to use their better sense to decide if they should use a hyphen for the sake of clarity.

•  Use of hyphens depends on your company or university’s preferred style guide . For example, if you’re using AP style, well-being is hyphenated. In other cases, it goes without a hyphen ( wellbeing ).

It’s also essential to note here that style guides can change their grammar rules . So you’ll want to keep tabs to make sure your current usage of punctuation is correct.

Want a simple solution to when you’re in doubt with a hyphen’s use? We’ve got two for you.

One, refer to a good dictionary and check how the word in question is punctuated.

Two, talk to your department head (be it a brand you work with or a publication you write for) about their style guide. Then, save the style guide’s rules in Writer . This way, the AI-powered writing platform will point out incorrect use of the punctuation mark based on the manual of style you follow.

Let’s look at the hyphen-using rules now, beginning with the simple stuff.

•  Some words are born hyphenated

These tend to be compound words or words that are formed when two or more words join to form new words. Since a single word with another single word are originally separate words, a hyphen is used to join them and indicate the formation of a new word.

Hence, some hyphenated words are:

•  Follow-up

•  Check-in

•  Two-fold

•  Short-term

•  Up-to-date

•  Father-in-law

•  Merry-go-round

Heads-up: it’s not essential that all compounds have hyphens. Some compounds come without them,= — such as sunflower, grasshopper, skateboard, and everything — and are better known as compound words.

•  Hyphens help join a prefix to a word

A prefix is a word or letter that comes before another word. Use a hyphen to combine the two (prefix + the target word).

•  Ex-girlfriend

•  Trans-Atlantic

•  Self-service

•  Mid-1980s

•  Co-exist

•  Anti-immune

•  Re-create

Pro tip: Hyphenate all words starting with the prefix self except self psychology.

•  Hyphens also join words with a suffix

Like prefixes, suffixes join with other words with the help of hyphens. However, these come toward the end of words.

•  Child-like

•  Shy-type

•  New York -based (with a hyphen in AP style) and New York–based (with an en dash in Chicago style)

•. Hyphens come with high and low as well

Next, use hyphens when you’re connecting words with high and low . For instance, high-level, low-impact, high-earning , and so on.

In a sentence, this would look like this:

She earned a high-sum bonus for hitting all the sales targets in the last quarter.

•  Hyphens have a role to play with numbers

All numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine are hyphenated in written communication. This might not be the case according to certain style guides though.

In a sentence:

John just launched a cheat sheet with ninety-nine ideas to boost organic traffic.

•  Hyphens with compound adjectives and numbers

Compound adjectives are compound words formed when two or more adjectives combine to modify a noun.

When there’s a number involved in the start of a compound adjective, use hyphens for connectivity so readers can tell the words have a combined meaning. For instance, 10-year-old and 2-minute recording.

Everyone had to create a 5-minute video with a strong hook.

However, if the number isn’t at the start, but is the second word in a compound adjective, you don’t need to add a hyphen. Example: Type 2 immune reactions.

•  Hyphens with compound adjectives and fractions

When a compound adjective has a fraction (half or quarter), you’ll find the two joined with, you guessed it, a hyphen. Examples: half-baked, one-quarter, three-quarters .

She half-heartedly accepted his proposal to reconcile.

You’ll also use a hyphen when you’re pairing fractions with numbers to form compound numbers. This means:

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

•  Hyphens for original compound verbs and nouns

As a writer, you can also create your own compound verbs for humor, descriptive writing, and other unique situations.

We hip-hopped our way through the boring party.

Similarly, use hyphens when creating original compound nouns to keep confusion at bay. The hyphen example we started this piece with — good-vibes-spreading-things — is a prime example of this.

I’m altering my diet to become a no-soda person.

Bonus tip: Don’t hesitate to use a hyphen if it adds clarity. Here’s an example: The playground was a no-fight zone for kids.

•  Hyphens help indicate continuation too

This is for instances when you write compound modifiers that have a common base. In such a case, you omit the modifier but show it’s linked by keeping the hyphen. Example: short- and long-term .

He played with a two-headed, three-armed stuffed animal.

•  Hyphens come with adverbs as well

Quick refresh: an adverb is a word that modifies a verb, another adverb, or adjective — typically ending with – ly .

The adverb very and those ending with -ly are, however, not hyphenated.

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Adverbs modifying other adverbs often come with hyphen though. Example:

•  A sister-headed online agency

•  Their stern-looking boss

•  Hyphens with compound modifiers

Use a hyphen when you’re using a two-word adjective (or compound modifier) that work as one adjective. The hyphen in such a case adds clarity to the fact that the adjectives are functioning as one unit.

•  Rock-solid

•  Pet-friendly

The office looked up to Microsoft for devising its child-friendly policies

•  Hyphens also combine participles

A word that’s formed from a verb but is used as an adjective (example: laughing face) or noun (good breeding) is known as a participle.

Use a hyphen with present- or past-participle–containing compound modifiers as you would with other compound modifiers. Example: heavily decorated, gorgeous-looking.

The irregular-shaped bug bit here.

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How to Use Hyphens in Writing

This content may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you. However, I only recommend products or services that I genuinely like and trust.

Hyphens are one of the trickiest punctuation marks. (I know, I’ve said the same thing before about other punctuation marks. They’re all tricky! ;-)) 

The biggest issue with hyphens is that often whether you use one or not can come down to personal preference. 

That being said, there are hyphenation rules that you can follow to make your writing more consistent and easier to understand. 

Below I explain how to use a hyphen, provide examples, and explain the difference between a hyphen and a dash. 

(Please note that I used The Chicago Manual of Style (CMOS) as my reference guide unless otherwise noted.)

Table of Contents

What is a hyphen?

A hyphen (-) is used to join words or numbers together in a sentence to show that they have a joint meaning. They may also be used to indicate a missing word (e.g., when a suspended hyphen is used) and to indicate a word break at the end of a line in word processing. 

According to CMOS , “the hyphen connects two things that are intimately related, usually words that function together as a single concept or work together as a joint modifier (e.g., tie-in, toll-free call, two-thirds).”

This article outlines the different hyphen uses including the following:

Use hyphens in compound words

Use hyphens in compound numbers, use hyphens with some prefixes and suffixes.

  • Use hyphens to show word breaks in word processing

When should a hyphen be used?

The hyphen aids comprehension, eliminates ambiguity, and avoids misreading of a word. As mentioned above, it has a variety of different uses.

Here’s how to use a hyphen in writing.   

The main use of hyphens is to join two words together to indicate that they have a joint meaning. These words are known as compound modifiers (a unit of two or more words that work together to modify another word).

One of the biggest spelling issues people come across is whether to write a compound word as one word, two words, or hyphenated. 

To decide if you should use a hyphen or leave the words as an open compound, refer to the rules below or an up-to-date dictionary like Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary . 

Language changes over time, so what once started out as an open compound or a hyphenated word can become a closed compound eventually.

Compound nouns

Compound nouns are often found in the dictionary and are sometimes referred to as permanent compounds.

She hopped on the back of his motorcycle and never looked back. (closed compound)

He badly needed to print the contract, but his printer cartridge was empty. (open compound)

Her father-in-law had a tendency to fall asleep after lunch. (hyphenated)

Compound verbs

Compound verbs are also often found in the dictionary. If you can’t find the compound verb in the dictionary, you can usually leave it as an open compound. 

Compound verbs comprised of a noun and a verb are sometimes hyphenated.

She intended to strong-arm him into cleaning the gutters. 

Compound verbs comprised of an adverb and a verb usually do not need to be hyphenated. 

I was afraid the toddler would overreact if I told her we had no cookies left, so I kept quiet. 

Compound adjectives

Compound adjectives are the most tricky, as whether or not you should hyphenate the words depends on where the adjectives are placed in the sentence. 

When compound modifiers precede a noun, they should usually be hyphenated. 

There were some well-documented risks he just couldn’t ignore. 

She spent her hard-earned money on a grammar course and wasn’t disappointed.  

However, when they come after the noun, they should not be hyphenated, even if they are hyphenated in the dictionary. 

The award-winning actress went to prison for fraud.

The actress, who is award winning , went to prison for fraud.

When spelled out, numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine should be hyphenated.

She had ninety-nine problems, but not knowing when to use a hyphen wasn’t one of them.

There were twenty-one candles on his cake, which was unusual because he was turning twenty-two .  

Simple fractions should be hyphenated in noun, adjective, and adverb forms.

Examples: 

He held a two-thirds majority right up until the end of the election. 

I ate three-fourths of the cake; I did not feel well afterward. 

Compounds formed with fractions should be hyphenated when they are acting as an adjective modifying a noun. If the fraction is a noun, then it should not be hyphenated. 

We watched a half-hour documentary on the secret life of bees.

The documentary on the secret life of bees went on for a half hour .

In the first example, half-hour is an adjective modifying a noun. In the second, half hour is a noun in its own right. 

If a person’s/object’s age is being used as an adjective or a noun , use a hyphen. 

It was a thirty-year-old car , but it still purred like a kitten.

The three-year-old boy had the mannerisms of an elderly gentleman.  

The car was thirty years old , but it still purred like a kitten.

The boy was three years old but had the mannerisms of an elderly gentleman.   

Thirty-year-old is hyphenated because it is an adjective that modifies the word car. However, if the age comes after the noun, it doesn’t need to be hyphenated because it’s not modifying the noun; for example, the boy was three years old. 

A general rule is not to hyphenate prefixes or suffixes unless the word looks odd without a hyphen. 

Compound words formed with prefixes are normally closed compounds, no matter whether they are nouns, verbs, adjectives, or adverbs.

I had to reedit the entire blog post when my changes were not saved. Shock horror!

He decided to preregister for the editing conference to ensure he didn’t miss out on a place. 

There are some exceptions to this rule though. A hyphen should be used in the following circumstances.

Before a capitalized letter or a numeral

Rachel lived in a pre-1960 house and decorated it accordingly.

I’ve been pro-Canadian ever since I tasted poutine.  

Before a compound term that already includes a hyphen

Buffets will be non-self-service from now on. 

To separate letters that might be hard to read or have a different meaning if run together

I wanted to re-cover the sofa because the dog had a little accident on it. 

The police promised to recover my sofa after it had been stolen. 

When a prefix or combining form stands alone

I studied micro- and macroeconomics as part of my degree. 

Some prefixes always take a hyphen like ex- (e.g., ex-husband) and self- (e.g., self-care). 

Most compound words that are formed with suffixes do not need to be hyphenated.

Her wardrobe was considered scandal ous at the time. 

The scandal was prevent able . 

However, there are some suffixes that do take hyphens; for example, -elect , -free , -based , and -style (adjective and adverb form).

She made sure she had gluten-free options for some of her guests.

Use hyphens to show word breaks in publishing

In printed matter, a hyphen is used to show word division between the end of a line and the beginning of the next line. When proofreading already formatted documents, a proofreader’s job is to ensure that words are broken in the appropriate places.  

It’s better to make the break between syllables. If the word is already hyphenated, make the break at the hyphen that’s already there.

Related content:

How to Use an Ellipsis: Chicago vs. AP Style

En Dash vs. Em Dash: When and How to Use Them

How to Use an Apostrophe (and Mistakes You Need to Avoid)

How to Use Quotation Marks (and the Difference between Single Quotes vs. Double Quotes)

Colon vs. Semicolon: When and How to Use Them

How to Use Commas (and Mistakes to Avoid)

15 Essential Reference Books for New Proofreaders

How to use suspended hyphens

You can use a suspended hyphen when the second part of a hyphenated word is omitted. 

He won Employee of the Month for signing up the most one- and two-year memberships at the gold club.   

In this example, “one-year” and “two-year” are modifying the same noun “memberships,” so you can save space by using a suspended hyphen and dropping the year in one-year. 

She donned her wind- and waterproof jacket and ran out the door. 

In the second example, dropping the proof in “windproof” is acceptable even though both words are usually closed compounds. 

Note: A hyphen should never have a space at either side. It can have a space after it to indicate a suspended hyphen. 

What is the difference between a hyphen and a dash?

Hyphen vs. dash: an age-old dilemma! Hyphens and dashes have different functions. A hyphen links two words, whereas a dash separates words, similar to parentheses.  

A hyphen should not be used interchangeably with en dashes or em dashes. 

However, certain complex compounds can be formed with an en dash instead of a hyphen. An en dash can be used before a proper open compound. 

The grenade they found was pre–World War II . 

Note: Two hyphens with no space on either side can be used in place of an em dash character. 

When to avoid using a hyphen

Here are some situations where you should avoid using a hyphen:

In place of an en dash or an em dash

Hyphens should not be used interchangeably with en dashes or em dashes. For more information on how to use dashes, check out my blog post . 

With some adverbs

Certain compound words, including those using the adverbs very , more , most , less , and least , can usually be left open unless there is a chance of ambiguity.

James took a very much needed nap every day after work. 

TikTok is a more popular choice of social media platform among teenagers. 

An adverb that ends in ly clearly modifies the word that comes after it, so a hyphen is not necessary.  

Examples:  

Her winning personality meant she scored a highly paid job .

He opened with a mildly amusing joke .  

With phrasal verbs

Phrasal verbs are verbs that are made up of a main verb + an adverb or preposition. These do not need to be hyphenated. 

I need to check in to the hotel at 2 p.m.

The men decided to break in on Tuesday because the homeowners would be out.

However, if the phrasal verb is used as a noun, you do need to add a hyphen.

Check-in is at 2 p.m.

The break-in occurred on Tuesday when the homeowners were out.

Warning: A hyphen can change the meaning of a sentence

A small-business conference. (A conference for small businesses)

A small business conference. (A business conference that’s small)

The difference is subtle. Most people will assume that the conference is for small businesses even if you leave out the hyphen, but if there is a chance of misreading, then using a hyphen would be better to avoid confusion. 

However, if there is no ambiguity, then you can leave the hyphen out.

Hyphen quiz

Can you spot any errors in the use of hyphens in the below sentences? (Based on CMOS recommendations outlined in this blog post.)

Use the knowledge you’ve learned above and try not to peek at the answers below!

  • The prize-winning cucumbers were delicious.
  • Her teenage crush was good-looking, but not very smart.
  • The music dated from the mid1990s, but the kids still loved it.
  • The money back guarantee made her feel that it was safe to invest her money. 
  • It was his first high-school dance, and he was feeling kind of nervous.    

Final thoughts on how to use a hyphen

There you have it; hyphens in a nutshell. One rule of thumb to hyphenate when not doing so would cause confusion. 

Above all, when you’re not sure if a compound word should be hyphenated or not, check an up-to-date dictionary or style guide. 

Want to Learn More about Tricky Punctuation Issues?

Are you always worried that you’re not punctuating sentences correctly? Or you want to be a proofreader, but you’re worried your punctuation skills aren’t up to scratch? We all learned how to use commas, semicolons, etc. once upon a time, but information doesn’t always stick that well, and sometimes we hold on to incorrect information!

My Punctuation 101 e-book and workbook combo will help you refresh your memory of punctuation rules, learn the mistakes you need to avoid making, and polish your punctuation skills so you can wow your readers and clients.

It includes tons of example sentences so you can see the punctuation marks in action AND 150 quiz questions to help you retain that knowledge forever.

Punctuation 101 e-book and workbook combo

Further reading

The Chicago Manual of Style

New Oxford Style Manual

The Associated Press Stylebook

Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary

The Best Punctuation Book, Period

How to Use Hyphens in Writing

Hyphen quiz answers

  • The prizewinning cucumbers were delicious. (Closed compound in the dictionary)
  • Her teenage crush was good looking , but not very smart. (Adjective comes after the noun, so it doesn’t need a hyphen)
  • The music dated from the mid-1990s , but the kids still loved it. (Hyphenate prefixes that comes before a number)
  • The money-back guarantee made her feel that it was safe to invest her money. (Adjective comes before the noun, so it doesn’t need a hyphen) 
  • It was his first high school dance, and he was feeling kind of nervous. (Open compound in the dictionary)

Grammar Posts

That vs. Which

Less vs. Fewer

Home In vs. Hone In

Between vs. Among

Bring vs. Take

Different From vs. Different Than

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Resources for Writers

Essential advice since 2010 for fiction writers, aspiring novelists, and editors from Jodie Renner, highly respected fiction editor and author of three award-winning craft-of-writing guides, FIRE UP YOUR FICTION, CAPTIVATE YOUR READERS, and WRITING A KILLER THRILLER, as well as time-saving QUICK CLICKS e-resources.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

How and when to use hyphens, dashes, & ellipses.

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

12 comments:

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Good to know! Thanks for sharing these. I'll eventually forget, but it's nice to have the reference to go back to. For me, these are just as difficult to remember as the difference between "affect" and "effect". Dictionary.com is forever my friend. :)

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Thanks for dropping by and commenting, Diane. Writers have more important things to think about than punctuation - that's what editors are for! :)

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Great lesson! Thanks!

Thanks, Liza!

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Hi Jodie, I'll be keeping this post for reference. Very helpful. Thank you. :-)

Thanks, Tracy. Glad you find my tips helpful! :)

How about em dashes used with quoted material broken up by the speaker asking a question to someone?

Hello... I cannot recast this. My boss wants it this way in a business report. The defendant owned a $10- to $15-million-a-year industry. Or should it be: a $10-million- to $15-million-a-year industry I think both may be correct. Are they? And if so, which one is preferred as written? Also, "a 25- to 30-percent-a-year increase in revenue." Is this truly correct with the suspended hyphen? Again, I am not permitted to recast, as much as I would like to. :-( Thank you so much for any reply.

Hi Mike, Your boss is correct. Go with what he/she says. Jodie

Very important: The comma may be omitted between the em dash and the speaker in a quotation per CMS ed. 16, section 6.86.

Spot-on, Leigh. The 16th edition came out in 2010; this blog post from 2013 refers to the then-decade-old 15th edition.

The idea isolates your aspects of a new chemical substance expression: bare-handed, close-up, die-hard, half-baked, jet-lagged, low-key, never-ending, no-brainer, pitch-dark, self-control, single-handed, sweet-talk, user-friendly, up-to-date, watered-down, work-in-progress, and many others.

Table of Contents

Collaboration, information literacy, writing process.

  • © 2023 by Joseph M. Moxley - University of South Florida , Jenifer Paquette - Hillsborough Community College

A hyphen (-) is used in the middle of a multi-word idea or joins two related words together.

(The hyphen key is next to the +/= key on your keyboard (the same key with the underscore _ )

Use hyphens to join compound words and avoid awkward or confusing word combinations.

My son-in-law owns a friendly-looking dog.

Ten Rules for Using a Hyphen

1. You should hyphenate two words if they come after a noun they modify and contain a single idea. Some grammar books will calls this a compound adjective. 

He knew she was a well-dressed lady, but until he saw her immaculately-polished fingernails, he wasn’t sure she was the right one for the job.

You do not need to hyphenate if the words come after the noun (unless the words are a generally accepted hyphenated compound). Always look up a word if you are unsure.

The lady was well dressed with immaculate nail polish.

2. Use hyphens with ages if the period of time is singular (not plural). 

I have a three-year-old child. She is three years old.

Year is singular in the first sentence, so you should use a hyphen. Years is plural in the second sentence, so you do not use a hyphen. The only exception to this is if the unit of time is one.

The one-year-old child is laughing.

In this case, the word year is singular because the child is only one, not for another grammatical purpose.

3. Use a hyphen between numbers, but do not put spaces between the numebrs and the hyphens. 

The class meets from 5:30-6:45 (not 5:30 – 6:45).

4. Use a hyphen for all compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine. 

The class had twenty-four students. The car cost twelve thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars.

You rarely need to spell out numbers like this—unless you have to start a sentence with a number, in which case you must spell it out. If you have a sentence that begins with a number, consider rearranging the word order to avoid it and save yourself the trouble!

Thirty-two people registered for the seminar. The seminar had 32 people registered.
7. Use a hyphen when discussing fractions.           The vote passed with more than a two-thirds majority.

6. Use a hyphen between a double last name.

Camilla Parker-Bowles married Prince Charles.  

7. You can use a hyphen if you are being creative with a word form in order to make a point (or be funny or clever).

He found he could not yes-ma’am his way into a corner office. He gave his dog another one of those oh-will-you-please-listen-to-me looks and sighed.

8. Use a hyphen to avoid confusion.

I re-sent that document. Without the hyphen, this would say “I resent that document” and that may be misinterpreted! He discovered the missing-person report. Without the hyphen, it is not clear if he found a report about missing people or if the “person report” was missing.

9. Do not use a hyphen for adverbs that end in -ly (or very).

INCORRECT : the very-fancy dinner party or the elegantly-sculpted statue Note : This only applies to adverbs that end in -ly, not every word that ends in -ly. The family-owned cafe was guarded by a friendly-looking dog.

10. Try not to overuse the hyphen with commonly known phrases. Always look up a word to see if it is typically hyphenated

Hyphen Checklist

  • Hyphens are used only when the compound word precedes the noun it modifies–not when it follows it. For instance: The well-known actor was not as well known as she assumed. 
  • Mother-in-law, five-year-old, better-than-usual
  • ex-wife, post-World War II, pre-2000, treasurer-elect
  • seventy-six, one thousand twenty-five, one-eighth, two-thirds
  • re-vision (to look at something more than one time)
  • anti-integration, non-negotiable, pre-engagement
  • Pineapple, hometown, private school, bank account
  • Prenuptial, unconscionable, collaborate

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  • Hyphens and Dashes
  • Semicolons and Colons
  • Apostrophes
  • End Punctuation
  • Quotation Marks
  • Parentheses
  • Sentence Structure

How to Use Hyphens (-), En Dashes (–), and Em Dashes (—)

In this section, we will be discussing the hyphen, the en dash, and the em dash. Most writers recognize the hyphen, but not everyone is familiar with the en dash or em dash. These are known as special characters because they do not appear on most standard keyboards.

You may come across en dashes and em dashes in academic and professional writing, and at some point, you may be required to use them. This section will discuss these special characters and provide instruction on how to type them in both Microsoft and Apple products.

How to type en dashes and em dashes

En dashes and em dashes are considered special characters, so they do not appear on a standard keyboard. Many word processors, like Microsoft Word, will automatically detect when two hyphens (--) are used without spaces to connect two words and will attempt to convert them to the correct dash character. There are also shortcuts that can be used to insert dashes.

  • Mac shortcut: Option + Hyphen (-)
  • Windows shortcut: Alt + 0150 on numpad
  • Microsoft Word shortcut: Alt + Hyphen (-) on number pad
  • Mac shortcut: Shift + Option + Hyphen (-)
  • Windows shortcut: Alt + 0151 on numpad
  • Microsoft Word shortcut: Ctrl + Alt + Hyphen (-) on number pad

Hyphens (-)

Hyphens are used in coequal nouns, compound adjectives, and some compound nouns. They are also used to hyphenate compound words together when a prefix or suffix is added.

Hyphens in coequal nouns When describing someone or something with multiple nouns, if the nouns are of equal importance, they may be presented as coequal nouns by connecting the nouns with hyphens.

Here are examples of coequal nouns:

  • Example: Taylor Swift is a singer and songwriter.
  • Example: Taylor Swift is a singer-songwriter.
  • Example: Jack has a career as an animator, illustrator, and videographer.
  • Example: Jack has a career as an animator-illustrator-videographer .

Hyphens in compound adjectives

A compound adjective is a single adjective that is made of multiple words.

Here are examples of compound adjectives.

  • Example: He is a world-class violinist.
  • Example: I took a fast-acting painkiller.

Hyphens in compound nouns

A compound noun is a noun that is made of multiple words. Some compound nouns, like ice cream , do not require hyphens, while others do.

Here are examples of compound nouns that require hyphens.

  • Example: I am so glad that I actually like my mother-in-law.
  • Example: Julie and Sarah were runners-up in the contest.
  • Example: The museum called the police once they found out about the break-in.

Hyphenating compound words when adding a prefix or suffix

When a prefix or suffix is added to a compound noun or compound adjective, the word group should be hyphenated for clarity. This is true even if the compound words are not normally connected by a hyphen.

Consider the compound noun fine arts , which is usually not hyphenated. If the suffix - based is added, then fine arts becomes fine-arts-based. This is done to clarify that the suffix - based is modifying the fine arts , not just arts.

  • Example: She attended the art school for its fine-arts-based curriculum.
  • Example: She attended the art school for its curriculum, which was based in the fine arts.  
  • Example: She attended the art school for its fine arts-based curriculum.
  • Example: She attended the art school for its arts-based curriculum, which she thought was fine, but nothing special.

Note: In handwritten or typewriter-written documents, a hyphen is often used at the end of a line of text to continue a word on to the next line. This practice is generally not followed for contemporary academic writing.

En Dashes (–)

The en dash is used instead of a hyphen when connecting a prefix or a suffix to a proper noun that is more than one word. When using an en dash to connect a prefix or a suffix to a word, do not put any spaces before or after the en dash.

  • Example: The movie starred an Academy Award–winning actor.

Em Dashes (—)

The em dash is used when an idea is being interrupted, when clarification is needed, when elaboration is needed, or when items are being listed in a sentence. The em dash should be used sparingly in your writing.

Em dashes for interruptions:

Use em dashes when you are interrupting the main idea of a sentence. If the interruption occurs at the end of the sentence, use a single em dash. If the interruption occurs in the middle of a sentence, put em dashes before and after the interruption. Do not put spaces before or after an em dash.

  • Example: I want to be a landscape photographer and have my work featured on the cover of National Geographic —even though my parents want me to go to medical school.
  • Example: My brother —who got his medical degree as a foot doctor— told me to pursue my dreams.

Em dashes for clarification:

Use em dashes to clarify meaning when commas would be too ambiguous.

  • Example: Shakespeare never reveals if the symptoms of Hamlet’s madness— paranoia, violence, and visions —are the real thing or a trick he’s pulling on the court.

Consider if the sentence were written only using commas:

  • Example: Shakespeare never reveals if the symptoms of Hamlet’s madness, paranoia, violence, and visions are the real thing or a trick he’s pulling on the court.

Without em dashes, the meaning of the sentence is more grammatically ambiguous. When only using commas, the word madness could be part of the list rather than the category under which the other words are listed.

Em dashes for elaboration:

Use em dashes when elaborating on an idea with words like for example or namely.

  • Example: The restaurant offered specialty burgers based on world cuisines— for example, a Korean kimchi burger.
  • Example: The bowl of spaghetti was knocked all over the kitchen floor. The principal offender— namely, Mister Fluffers —was my roommate’s adopted cat.

Em dashes for lists:

Em dashes can be used for lists instead of colons.

  • Example: The soft-serve ice cream stand offered all the usual flavors— vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and swirl.
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Chapter 18 Punctuation

18.9 knowing when to use hyphens, learning objectives.

  • Recognize compound words that require hyphens all the time and those that require hyphens due to specific situations.
  • Learn how to use hyphens in writing numbers.
  • Learn which prefixes and suffixes require the use of a hyphen.

Some hyphen usage rules are set requirements, such as in certain compound words and fractions and numbers. Other hyphen usage rules are subjective or situation-specific, such as with certain compound words, prefixes, confusing situations, and continuations to the next line of text.

Using Hyphens with Compound Words

Some standing compound words are written with hyphens, some as one word without a hyphen, and some as two words without a hyphen.

Examples of compound words that are written with hyphens: merry-go-round, over-the-counter, six-year-old, son-in-law

Examples of compound words that are written as one word with no hyphen: drywall, firefly, softball, toothpaste

Examples of compound words that are written as two separate words without a hyphen: high school, middle class, peanut butter, post office

Other rules for hyphens in compound words include the following:

  • Hyphenate compound words when they are used together to modify the same word (e.g., “Scout was a quick – witted child”).
  • Do not turn words into a hyphenated compound adjective if words are placed after the word they modify (e.g., “Scout was a child who was quick witted”).
  • Do not hyphenate – ly adverbs and adjectives (e.g., “Georgie has a highly coveted first-run copy,” not “Georgie has a highly-coveted first-run copy”).

Using Hyphens to Write Fractions and Numbers

Fractions and numbers are actually compound words and as such, could be included in Section 18.9.1 “Using Hyphens with Compound Words.” But just to be clear, let’s review them briefly here.

Use hyphens to write all two-word numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine. Also, use hyphens when writing those numbers within larger numbers. Hyphenate a fraction you are expressing as a single quantity, regardless of whether you are using it as a noun or as an adjective.

  • four hundred twenty-one
  • two-thirds of the pie
  • a one-quarter share of the profits

Using Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes

Use hyphens in certain situations to add prefixes and suffixes to words.

  • To join a number to a prefixpre-1960

Using Hyphens to Avoid Confusion

Sometimes a hyphen can separate two visually alike words from each other. Consider that the use of the hyphen in the first of the following two sentences helps to avoid confusion that would be generated without the hyphen.

  • I think the assistant prosecutor should re-sign.
  • I think the assistant prosecutor should resign.

Key Takeaways

  • Some compound words are always in compound form and some are hyphenated. Writers create other hyphenated compound words for situational needs when two or more words modify the same word and are placed before that word in a sentence.
  • Hyphens are used to separate the words in the numbers twenty-one through ninety-nine and in fractions.
  • You should use a hyphen when adding prefixes to proper nouns or numbers. Also, use a hyphen to join a capital letter to a word and to join certain prefixes ( all- , ex- , quasi- , and self- ) and suffixes (- elect , – odd , and – something ).
  • Make a list of ten compound words that are always written with hyphens.
  • Write two sentences that include situational compound adjectives that modify nouns.
  • Write these numbers in words: 42, 89, 265, 1725.
  • Write these fractions in words: ¾, 7½.
  • Write three words that each use one of these prefixes and suffixes: all -, ex -, quasi -, – self , – elect , – odd , – something .
  • Writers Handbook. Authored by : Anonymous. Provided by : Anonymous. Located at : http://2012books.lardbucket.org/books/writers-handbook/ . License : CC BY-NC-SA: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike

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Hyphens – How to Use Them in Academic Writing

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Hyphens-Definition

Hyphens are punctuation marks (-) that can be used to either connect two words together or connect two parts of the same word while separating the syllables. The use of hyphens within the text is known as hyphenation and can be used in several situations following the language rules , including when compound modifiers in a sentence come before the word they are modifying. In this article, we will explore how to correctly make use of the hyphen within academic writing .

Inhaltsverzeichnis

  • 1 Hyphens – In a Nutshell
  • 2 Definition: Hyphens
  • 3 Hyphens with compound modifiers
  • 4 Hyphens with participles
  • 5 Hyphens and numbers
  • 6 Hyphens with prefixes
  • 7 Hyphens with suffixes

Hyphens – In a Nutshell

Hyphenation is used to connect two words together or to connect two parts of the same word. Hyphens are mainly included:

  • when using compound modifiers before a noun
  • when adding certain prefixes or suffixes to words
  • when writing numbers in full
  • when a word at the end of a line has been split in two

Definition: Hyphens

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines hyphens as “a punctuation mark (-) used especially to divide or to compound words, word elements, or numbers”.

This punctuation mark is commonly used within hyphenated compound words, such as father-in-law , or to provide clarity when using compound modifiers as an adjective before a noun.

  • I stayed at a child-friendly hotel.

In this sentence, the hyphen is used to link the words child  and friendly because they serve as a compound modifier for the word hotel .

Without the use of the hyphen in this sentence, it is possible to misinterpret the sentence as referring to a friendly hotel that is also a child.

Hyphens may also be used to show that a single word has been divided into two parts at the end of a line. This usage is commonly seen in books, magazines, and newspapers, and is especially common when a long word ends a line.

Ireland

Hyphens with compound modifiers

Compound modifiers are two or more words, which adopt the functionality of a single adjective within a sentence.

This allows the compound modifier to be used to modify a noun. When this occurs, and the compound modifier appears before the noun in a sentence, hyphens should be used.

Examples of using hyphenated compound modifiers

  • Barry wanted to purchase a high-end computer.

The compound modifier high-end  modifies the noun computer.

  • The car has top-of-the-range features.

The compound modifier top-of-the-range modifies the noun features .

If the modifier comes after the noun, a hyphen is not needed. Therefore, it would also be grammatically correct to write the sentence in the following way:

  • The features of the car are top of the range.

Hyphens with participles

When compound modifiers include either a past or present participle, the same rules apply as for other compound modifiers. So, if the compound modifier comes before the noun, it should be hyphenated.

However, it does not need to be hyphenated if the compound modifier comes after the noun.

With this in mind, both of the following examples are correct

✓ She is a good-looking woman.

✓ He was a self-made millionaire.

An exception to this rule occurs when an adverb ending in “ly” is involved. In this case, the compound is not hyphenated, so the following would be correct:

✓ It was an expertly managed situation.

Hyphens and numbers

The relationship between hyphens and numbers is relatively straightforward.

When a number is written out as a full word, any number between twenty-one and ninety-nine should be written with a hyphen.

Larger numbers should be written in the following way:

  • One hundred and ninety-nine

When numbers are written as digits, a hyphen can be used if the number forms the first part of a compound adjective. For instance, you would write:

  • A 30-minute lunch break
  • A 10-second sprint

Hyphens with prefixes

A prefix is a word that is added to an existing word in order to alter the meaning. A number of prefixes are hyphenated, such as ex, all, mid, cross and self . This makes the following correct:

✓ The self-service checkout

✓ My ex-girlfriend

✓ An all-inclusive resort

✓ The mid-1990s

Hyphens with suffixes

A suffix is a word added to the end of an existing word, in order to change its meaning. Some suffixes should also be hyphenated:

  • A water-type Pokemon
  • The President-elect

The word like , when used in this way, may also be hyphenated if the preceding word is a proper noun, if the preceding word is three syllables or longer, or if doing so avoids three consecutive appearances of “l”.

With this in mind, the following are all grammatically correct uses of hyphenated suffixes:

✓ A library-like atmosphere

Follows a word with three syllables

✓ A New York City-like metropolis

Follows a proper noun

✓ A shell-like material

Avoids three consecutive “l”

What is the purpose of a hyphen?

Hyphens are used to join two words together or to connect two parts of the same word. Some words are hyphenated compound words , which should always be written with hyphens, such as father-in-law.  However, hyphens can also be used to connect compound modifiers , such as dog-friendly pub or high-quality food .

What do hyphens look like?

The symbol for a hyphen is “-“ . This should not be confused with the symbol for a dash , which is the longer “—” .

What can you use instead of hyphens?

If you are attempting to indicate a pause within a sentence or add a parenthetical statement to a sentence, you should use a dash instead of a hyphen. An example of a sentence with a dash used instead of a hyphen would be as follows:

  • The three new recruits—Chloe, John, and Michael—were hard workers and a great addition to the team.

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The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Semicolons, colons, and dashes

What this handout is about.

This handout explains the most common uses of three kinds of punctuation: semicolons (;), colons (:), and dashes (—). After reading the handout, you will be better able to decide when to use these forms of punctuation in your own writing.

The semicolon looks like a comma with a period above it, and this can be a good way to remember what it does. A semicolon creates more separation between thoughts than a comma does but less than a period does. Here are the two most common uses of the semicolon:

1. To help separate items in a list, when some of those items already contain commas.

Let’s look at an example, as that is the easiest way to understand this use of the semicolon. Suppose I want to list three items that I bought at the grocery store:

apples grapes pears

In a sentence, I would separate these items with commas:

I bought apples, grapes, and pears.

Now suppose that the three items I want to list are described in phrases that already contain some commas:

shiny, ripe apples small, sweet, juicy grapes firm pears

If I use commas to separate these items, my sentence looks like this:

I bought shiny, ripe apples, small, sweet, juicy grapes, and firm pears.

That middle part is a bit confusing—it doesn’t give the reader many visual cues about how many items are in the list, or about which words should be grouped together. Here is where the semicolon can help. The commas between items can be “bumped up” a notch and turned into semicolons, so that readers can easily tell how many items are in the list and which words go together:

I bought shiny, ripe apples; small, sweet, juicy grapes; and firm pears.

2. To join two sentences.

An independent clause is a group of words that can stand on its own (independently)—it is a complete sentence. Semicolons can be used between two independent clauses. The semicolon keeps the clauses somewhat separate, like a period would do, so we can easily tell which ideas belong to which clause. But it also suggests that there may be a close relationship between the two clauses—closer than you would expect if there were a period between them. Let’s look at a few examples. Here are a few fine independent clauses, standing on their own as complete sentences:

I went to the grocery store today. I bought a ton of fruit. Apples, grapes, and pears were on sale.

Now—where could semicolons fit in here? They could be used to join two (but not all three) of the independent clauses together. So either of these pairs of sentences would be okay:

I went to the grocery store today; I bought a ton of fruit. Apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale.

I went to the grocery store today. I bought a ton of fruit; apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale.

I could NOT do this:

I went to the grocery store today; I bought a ton of fruit; apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale.

But why would I want to use a semicolon here, anyway? One reason might have to do with style: the three short sentences sound kind of choppy or abrupt. A stronger reason might be if I wanted to emphasize a relationship between two of the sentences. If I connect “I bought a ton of fruit” and “Apples, grapes, and pears were all on sale” more closely, readers may realize that the reason why I bought so much fruit is that there was a great sale on it.

Colons follow independent clauses (clauses that could stand alone as sentences) and can be used to present an explanation, draw attention to something, or join ideas together.

Common uses of colons

1. To announce, introduce, or direct attention to a list, a noun or noun phrase, a quotation, or an example/explanation. You can use a colon to draw attention to many things in your writing. The categories listed below often overlap, so don’t worry too much about whether your intended use of the colon fits one category perfectly.

Lists/series example:

We covered many of the fundamentals in our writing class: grammar, punctuation, style, and voice.

Noun/noun phrase example:

My roommate gave me the things I needed most: companionship and quiet.

Quotation example:

Shakespeare said it best: “To thine own self be true.”

Example/explanation example:

Many graduate students discover that there is a dark side to academia: late nights, high stress, and a crippling addiction to caffeinated beverages.

2. To join sentences. You can use a colon to connect two sentences when the second sentence summarizes, sharpens, or explains the first. Both sentences should be complete, and their content should be very closely related. Note that if you use colons this way too often, it can break up the flow of your writing. So don’t get carried away with your colons!

Example: Life is like a puzzle: half the fun is in trying to work it out.

3. To express time, in titles, and as part of other writing conventions. Colons appear in several standard or conventional places in writing. Here are a few examples:

  • With numbers. Colons are used to separate units of time (4:45:00 expresses four hours, forty-five minutes, and zero seconds); ratios (2:1), and Bible verses and chapters (Matthew 2:24).
  • In bibliography entries. Many citation styles use a colon to separate information in bibliography entries.

Example: Kurlansky, M. (2002). Salt: A world history. New York, NY: Walker and Co.

  • With subtitles. Colons are used to separate titles from subtitles.

Example: Everest: The Last Frontier

  • After the salutation in a formal business letter. A colon can be used immediately after the greeting in a formal letter (less-formal letters tend to use a comma in this location).

Example: To Whom It May Concern: Please accept my application for the position advertised in the News and Observer.

Common colon mistakes

1. Using a colon between a verb and its object or complement

Example (incorrect):The very best peaches are: those that are grown in the great state of Georgia.

To correct this, simply remove the colon.

2. Using a colon between a preposition and its object

Example (incorrect): My favorite cake is made of: carrots, flour, butter, eggs, and cream cheese icing.

3. Using a colon after “such as,” “including,” “especially,” and similar phrases. This violates the rule that the material preceding the colon must be a complete thought. Look, for example, at the following sentence:

Example (incorrect): There are many different types of paper, including: college ruled, wide ruled, and plain copy paper.

You can see that “There are many different types of paper, including” is not a complete sentence. The colon should simply be removed.

How to check for mistakes

Ask yourself a question: does the material preceding the colon stand on its own? One way to tell if the colon has been properly used is to look only at the words that come in front of the colon. Do they make a complete thought? If not, you may be using the colon improperly. Check above to see if you have made one of the most common mistakes.

Should you capitalize the first letter after a colon?

Different citation styles (such as MLA, APA, Chicago, and AMA) have slightly different rules regarding whether to capitalize the first letter after a colon. If it is important that you follow one of these styles precisely, be sure to use the appropriate manual to look up the rule.

Here’s our suggestion: generally, the first word following the colon should be lower-cased if the words after the colon form a dependent clause (that is, if they could not stand on their own as a complete sentence). If the following phrase is a complete (independent) clause, you may choose to capitalize it or not. Whichever approach you choose, be sure to be consistent throughout your paper.

Example with an independent clause, showing two different approaches to capitalization: The commercials had one message: The geeks shall inherit the earth. (correct) The commercials had one message: the geeks shall inherit the earth. (correct)

Example with a dependent clause (which is not capitalized): There are three perfect times to smile: when I’m with friends, when I’m alone, and when I’m with my dog. (correct)

The first thing to know when talking about dashes is that they are almost never required by the laws of grammar and punctuation. Overusing dashes can break up the flow of your writing, making it choppy or even difficult to follow, so don’t overdo it.

It’s also important to distinguish between dashes and hyphens. Hyphens are shorter lines (-); they are most often used to show connections between words that are working as a unit (for example, you might see adjectives like “well-intentioned”) or to spell certain words (like “e-mail”).

With that background information in mind, let’s take a look at some ways to put dashes to work in your writing.

1. To set off material for emphasis. Think of dashes as the opposite of parentheses. Where parentheses indicate that the reader should put less emphasis on the enclosed material, dashes indicate that the reader should pay more attention to the material between the dashes. Dashes add drama—parentheses whisper. Dashes can be used for emphasis in several ways: A single dash can emphasize material at the beginning or end of a sentence.

Example: After eighty years of dreaming, the elderly man realized it was time to finally revisit the land of his youth—Ireland.

Example: “The Office”—a harmless television program or a dangerously subversive guide to delinquency in the workplace?

Two dashes can emphasize material in the middle of a sentence. Some style and grammar guides even permit you to write a complete sentence within the dashes.

Example: Everything I saw in my new neighborhood—from the graceful elm trees to the stately brick buildings—reminded me of my alma mater.

Example (complete sentence): The students—they were each over the age of eighteen—lined up in the streets to vote for the presidential candidates.

Two dashes can emphasize a modifier. Words or phrases that describe a noun can be set off with dashes if you wish to emphasize them.

Example: The fairgrounds—cold and wet in the October rain—were deserted.

Example: Nettie—her chin held high—walked out into the storm.

2. To indicate sentence introductions or conclusions. You can sometimes use a dash to help readers see that certain words are meant as an introduction or conclusion to your sentence.

Example: Books, paper, pencils—many students lacked even the simplest tools for learning in nineteenth-century America.

Example: To improve their health, Americans should critically examine the foods that they eat—fast food, fatty fried foods, junk food, and sugary snacks.

3. To mark “bonus phrases.” Phrases that add information or clarify but are not necessary to the meaning of a sentence are ordinarily set off with commas. But when the phrase itself already contains one or more commas, dashes can help readers understand the sentence.

Slightly confusing example with commas: Even the simplest tasks, washing, dressing, and going to work, were nearly impossible after I broke my leg.

Better example with dashes: Even the simplest tasks—washing, dressing, and going to work—were nearly impossible after I broke my leg.

4. To break up dialogue. In written dialogue, if a speaker suddenly or abruptly stops speaking, hesitates in speech, or is cut off by another speaker, a dash can indicate the pause or interruption.

Example: “I—I don’t know what you’re talking about,” denied the politician.

Example: Mimi began to explain herself, saying, “I was thinking—” “I don’t care what you were thinking,” Rodolpho interrupted.

We hope that this handout has helped you better understand colons, semicolons, and dashes! For more information about punctuation, be sure to check out our handout on commas .

You may reproduce it for non-commercial use if you use the entire handout and attribute the source: The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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how to use a hyphen in creative writing

Decoding the Double Hyphen Symbol in Modern Writing

In the ever-evolving landscape of written communication, the double hyphen symbol (--) has emerged as a unique and intriguing player. Often mistaken for its cousins, the em dash and the en dash, the double hyphen holds its own place in the punctuation family. Let's embark on a journey to unravel the mysteries of this symbol, understanding its uses and significance in contemporary writing.

Understanding the Double Hyphen

The double hyphen, consisting of two consecutive hyphens (--), is a punctuation mark that's often used as a stand-in for the em dash (—) in digital writing. It originated from the limitations of typewriters and early computer keyboards that lacked a dedicated em dash key.

When and How to Use the Double Hyphen

The double hyphen steps in primarily when an em dash is needed but not readily available on the keyboard. It's a versatile mark, used in various contexts:

  • Indicating Interruptions or Breaks in Thought : Similar to an em dash, it can be used to show an abrupt change in thought or an interruption. For example: "I was going to tell him--but then I thought better of it."
  • Adding Emphasis : It can also be used for emphasis, particularly in informal writing. "That was the best performance--ever!"

The Evolution from Typewriters to Digital Writing

Originally, the double hyphen was a workaround on typewriters that lacked an em dash. With the advent of digital writing, it has become less common but is still used, especially in plain text formats where typographic nuances like the em dash are not supported.

Examples in Context

Let's see the double hyphen in action:

  • Dialogue : "But I thought you said--" "No, I never said that."
  • Emphasis : "This is--without a doubt--the best cake I've ever had."

Summary and Key Insights

The double hyphen is a simple yet effective tool in writing, especially in contexts where more sophisticated punctuation marks are not available. It's a testament to the adaptability of language and how communication evolves with technology. Remember, while it's a handy substitute, the em dash is preferable in more formal or typeset documents.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can i use the double hyphen in formal writing.

It's best to use the em dash in formal writing. The double hyphen is more suited for informal contexts or digital platforms where em dashes are not available.

How do I type an em dash if my keyboard only has a hyphen key?

On most word processors, typing two hyphens together (--), often converts automatically into an em dash. Alternatively, you can use character map tools or keyboard shortcuts specific to your operating system.

Is there a difference in spacing when using a double hyphen?

Like the em dash, the double hyphen is typically used without spaces on either side in most styles. However, some style guides may recommend spacing; it's always best to check the specific guidelines you're following.

Can the double hyphen replace other punctuation marks?

While it's primarily a stand-in for the em dash, it's not a suitable replacement for other punctuation marks like the comma, colon, or semicolon.

Is the double hyphen acceptable in digital communication?

Yes, it's quite common in emails, text messages, and online content, especially in informal communication.

The double hyphen symbol is a fascinating example of how language and punctuation adapt to technological constraints and changes. While it's a relic of the typewriter era, its usage in digital writing today underscores the dynamic nature of written communication. Whether you're crafting a novel, an email, or a social media post, understanding and utilizing the double hyphen can add clarity and emphasis to your writing.

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how to use a hyphen in creative writing

how to use a hyphen in creative writing

How to Use Milanote as a Creative Writer

I f you’re the type of writer who plans their books or short stories ahead of time, make sure you check out Milanote, a versatile app that helps organize projects.

Here’s everything you need to know about Milanote’s tools for creative writers. See what’s available and try out the features that interest you the most.

What Is Milanote?

Milanote is a platform for planning projects. It's available online, but also as a desktop app , browser extension , and mobile app for Android and iOS .

You can work on your project from any device without missing a beat. And the platform has tools for more than writers. It’s great for designers, marketers, business owners, and more.

In other words, you can use Milanote to organize your whole career as an author, even combine it with other apps to boost your skills and prospects. For instance, practice creative writing on Story Shack’s Taleforge , while managing your book, publication, and marketing campaign.

1. Create a New Board

Milanote is a prime example of why creative writing apps are useful . After signing up as a writer, you gain access to your workspace. It’s a clean-cut grid surrounded by planning tools—plenty of room for your imagination to take shape.

To start a project, click on Board on the left-hand panel and drag your new addition into your grid. Double-click on the new board’s name to change it.

You can also connect boards with arrows and create a map. To do this, select a board. Then, click and drag the white dot that appears in the top-right corner.

Once set, bend the arrow, choose a different color, give it a label, change its thickness, or make it dashed. Play around with your options and make your book’s plan inspiring.

2. Choose a Creative Writing Template

Double-click on your new board to open it. You can start planning from scratch, but Milanote offers templates, too, specifically for writers.

If you don’t like your initial selection, click on More templates > Writing . You’ll get several options to choose from.

Novel Mood Board

You may just want to get a feel for your story. There’s a template that lets you create a mood board with pictures, videos, text, and files.

Brainstorming

You can then expand your mood board into a plan. Milanote starts you off with boxes and arrows that you fill in as necessary to help you specify what your story is about and where you’re going with it.

A big part of creative writing is doing research. Whether you need to know the history of a place, how to pilot a plane, or how to defend against a sword maneuver, note-taking is essential.

Milanote’s research template helps you keep everything in one place, complete with images, links, file uploads, and neat text boxes.

World-Building

To give your story texture and a convincing setting, it's important to give your fictional universe the attention it deserves. World-building apps on Android and iOS are handy, but sometimes you need a grander view of your book.

Try the world-building template on Milanote, where you can elaborate on your narrative’s places, people, history, maps, and anything else you want to add.

With this template, you can organize your whole novel on one board. You start with your inspiration, structure, and characters, not to mention a to-do list, images, and embedded boards. Make changes as you see fit.

Story Outline

The best plots take a lot of thought and planning, which Milanote’s outline template can help with. You can break down every milestone in your narrative and embellish it with text, images, and files.

Another app to consider as a creative writer is Novelist and its book planning tools , also available on both your browser and mobile device.

If you like following established structures, Milanote provides the space to lay out the best possible storyline. Just like the story outline template, the map asks for your narrative’s key moments, but it focuses on more generic concepts, such as the premise, stakes, core conflict, resolution, and lesson.

Three-Act Structure

A well-known layout for any story is the three-act structure. Milanote has a template specifically for this purpose. You get the three acts broken down with text, arrows, and other visuals to make your life as a creative writer easier and more exciting.

Character Profile

If you want to plan each character in depth, go for this template on Milanote. You could even connect the boards on your main grid and organize your cast’s relations.

The template’s default sections include the character’s picture, profile, backstory, characteristics, quirks, flaws, and arc.

Character Relationship Map

If you’d rather use your main grid to plan your overall project, not just your characters, use the relationship map template for a board dedicated to visualizing your full cast.

It lets you add everyone’s names and pictures. You can then connect them with arrows and labels. This is invaluable for a complex plot that completely depends on its characters.

3. Customize Your Template

Milanote provides a range of tools for writers to customize their boards. Here’s what you can do with them.

Edit the Template’s Details

Before clicking Use this template for the one you want, you can also tick the Keep example content box. Otherwise, Milanote will leave your template with blank fields.

Either way, you need to add your own content. So, go ahead and type in your text, upload images or files, and edit any other details the template comes with.

Add Relevant Boards

Your template might already contain its own boards, which you can rename and edit as normal. This gives your plan useful layers.

If something’s missing, the Board button is available here, too. Click and drag your new item into a pre-existing box or the background grid. And adjust the board’s details.

Add Other Features to Your Template

The sidebar offers several elements you can add to your project. We’ve already mentioned boards, images, videos, uploads, arrows, to-do lists, and links, but there’s a lot more.

You can also have different text boxes, columns, maps, sketches, audio files, and even color schemes. Depending on what kind of book you’re writing, your Milanote plan can reflect it completely.

Delete Items as Necessary

Anything you don’t like, you can easily remove. Just click and drag the item to the Trash icon.

Alternatively, right-click on the item and choose Delete from the menu. You’ll see many more available actions, including cutting or duplicating the item, changing its color, and converting it into a template.

The best way to really get to know Milanote’s capabilities is to try it out yourself for various projects.

4. Share, Export, or View Your Book's Plan as a Presentation

While inside a board, you can share it with people you want as editors. A read-only link is also available, which you can customize with enabled comments, downloads, passwords, and other features.

Your next option is to export the board. Choose between a PDF or PNG file, a linear document in a Word, markdown, or plain text format, or a ZIP file.

Finally, you can view your board as a full-screen presentation. Scroll through the whole plan and click on items to zoom in on them.

Master Milanote to Perfect Your Creative Writing

Milanote is easy to use and very versatile, so take advantage of its templates and tools. You can write, organize, and share your book with the help of this multifunctional app.

In the end, instead of a mess of papers and sticky notes, you can have a neat plan for your book on your computer and smartphone. This change can boost your confidence and productivity as a creative writer.

Even if it doesn’t suit you, don’t give up on digital tools. There are many services out there tailored to the creative writing process.

How to Use Milanote as a Creative Writer

IMAGES

  1. Hyphens: Joining Words Together

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  2. When and How To Use a Hyphen (

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  3. Hyphen (-) When to Use a Hyphen with Useful Examples

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  4. Hyphen (-) When to Use a Hyphen in English (with Great Examples) • 7ESL

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  6. General Principles of Using Hyphens (-). When you need to use them

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  1. Figurative Language

  2. Punctuation marks

  3. Hyphens

  4. Uses of Hyphens with Examples #english#learning

  5. Punctuation Marks

COMMENTS

  1. When and How to Use Hyphens in Writing: An Author's Guide

    Use a hyphen when using pro- with a word indicating support (pro-union). After requires a hyphen when used to form a compound adjective but not when it's part of a compound noun: after-dinnercocktail; afternoon. Don't use a hyphen in a compound noun with vice: vice chairman; vicechancellor.

  2. Hyphen: Correct Usage Rules & Examples

    What is a hyphen? A hyphen (-) is a punctuation mark that's used to join words or parts of words. It's not interchangeable with the various dashes.; Hyphens are often used in compound modifiers when the modifier comes before the word it's modifying.; If you're not sure whether a compound word has a hyphen, check your preferred dictionary.

  3. Hyphen Use

    Use a hyphen to avoid confusion or an awkward combination of letters: re-sign a petition (vs. resign from a job) semi-independent (but semiconscious) shell-like (but childlike) Use a hyphen with the prefixes ex- (meaning former), self-, all-; with the suffix -elect; between a prefix and a capitalized word; and with figures or letters:

  4. Hyphens and Dashes: When to Use Hyphens and Dashes in Writing (Examples)

    Hyphens and dashes are forms of punctuation that look like a line. Hyphens are the shortest line, followed by en dashes, then em dashes. There is one kind of hyphen. En dashes and em dashes are the two kinds of dashes. To connect words is a hyphen's primary job. En dashes show ranges and replaces the word 'to.'.

  5. When should you use a hyphen?

    You'll also use a hyphen when you're pairing fractions with numbers to form compound numbers. This means: • Hyphens for original compound verbs and nouns. As a writer, you can also create your own compound verbs for humor, descriptive writing, and other unique situations. In a sentence:

  6. Mastering Hyphens in Writing: Essential Tips and Guidelines

    The hyphen here is crucial for conveying the correct meaning. Compound Words: "Mother-in-law" is a classic example. The hyphens link the words to show a specific familial relationship. Conclusion. Hyphens, though small, are mighty tools in the realm of writing. They enhance clarity, precision, and understanding.

  7. How to Use Dashes: Your Guide to the Em Dash, En Dash, and Hyphen

    Many writers confuse the em dash with the en dash, or even the hyphen (which is technically not a dash at all). These little mistakes can make even the best writing look sloppy or unprofessional. Avoid these common mistakes and make your writing more effective by learning the proper use of dashes and hyphens. The Em Dash

  8. How to Use Hyphens to Create Connections and Clarity in Your Writing

    Writing Well. Hyphens might be tiny punctuation marks, but they are powerful tools for adding clarity to your writing. In a basic sense, hyphens are connectors. They bring together words and word components to help readers easily connect and understand concepts. But how do you know when you should use a hyphen in scientific and medical writing?

  9. How to Use Hyphens in Your Writing

    Place the hyphen between the syllables, or sounds, of a word. (If you're not sure where the syllable breaks are in a word, check the dictionary.) Don't leave only one letter of a divided word on a line. If you have a choice, divide the word more or less in the middle. Don't divide words that have only one syllable.

  10. How to Use Hyphens in Writing

    Use hyphens to show word breaks in publishing. In printed matter, a hyphen is used to show word division between the end of a line and the beginning of the next line. When proofreading already formatted documents, a proofreader's job is to ensure that words are broken in the appropriate places.

  11. How and When to Use HYPHENS, DASHES, & ELLIPSES

    Don't confuse it with a hyphen (-). In fiction, the em dash almost always appears with no spaces around it. C. How to Create Em Dashes and En Dashes: Em dash (—) Ctrl+Alt+minus (far top right, on the number pad). CMS uses no spaces around em dashes; AP puts spaces on each side of em-dashes. En dash (-) Ctrl+minus (far top right, on the ...

  12. Hyphens

    7. Use a hyphen when discussing fractions. The vote passed with more than a two-thirds majority. 6. Use a hyphen between a double last name. Camilla Parker-Bowles married Prince Charles. 7. You can use a hyphen if you are being creative with a word form in order to make a point (or be funny or clever).

  13. How to Use Hyphens Correctly

    Hyphens are often used to connect two or more words acting as a single adjective before a noun. This is especially common when expressing ages, distances, or other measurements. For instance, in the phrase "a five-year-old child," the hyphens clarify that the words "five" and "year" together modify the noun "child.".

  14. Hyphens and Dashes

    The em dash should be used sparingly in your writing. Em dashes for interruptions: Use em dashes when you are interrupting the main idea of a sentence. If the interruption occurs at the end of the sentence, use a single em dash. If the interruption occurs in the middle of a sentence, put em dashes before and after the interruption.

  15. Punctuation for Creative Writers, Part 1

    The em dash is thusly named because it is as long as an 'm' character as opposed to an en dash, the length of an 'n' character. ... However, hopefully, this opened you up to new uses and helpful hints to use in your creative writing endeavors. The Short Of It. Punctuation. Grammar. Creative Writing. Fiction Writing----27. Follow ...

  16. Writing Tips: How to Use Hyphens

    Tricks of the Trade. One easy way to know whether or not to use a hyphen is to rearrange the sentence. Take one of the descriptive words out; if the sentence still makes sense, you don't need a hyphen. Similarly, if the sentence still makes sense when you switch the two adjectives, don't use a hyphen.

  17. 18.9 Knowing When to Use Hyphens

    Fractions and numbers are actually compound words and as such, could be included in Section 18.9.1 "Using Hyphens with Compound Words.". But just to be clear, let's review them briefly here. Use hyphens to write all two-word numbers between twenty-one and ninety-nine. Also, use hyphens when writing those numbers within larger numbers.

  18. Hyphens

    Hyphens also indicate where a word may be divided into syllables, and they are sometimes used to separate a word at the end of a typewritten line. In academic writing, however, avoid end-of-line hyphenation. Do not put a space before or after a hyphen. Use a hyphen for descriptive terms. Use a hyphen to join two or more words that precede a ...

  19. Hyphens ~ How to Use Them in Academic Writing

    Hyphens - In a Nutshell. Hyphenation is used to connect two words together or to connect two parts of the same word. Hyphens are mainly included: when using compound modifiers before a noun. when adding certain prefixes or suffixes to words. when writing numbers in full. when a word at the end of a line has been split in two.

  20. Semicolons, colons, and dashes

    Common uses of colons. 1. To announce, introduce, or direct attention to a list, a noun or noun phrase, a quotation, or an example/explanation. You can use a colon to draw attention to many things in your writing. The categories listed below often overlap, so don't worry too much about whether your intended use of the colon fits one category ...

  21. Dashes: How to Use Them in Sentences

    A dash is a little horizontal line that floats in the middle of a line of text (not at the bottom; that's an underscore). It's longer than a hyphen and is commonly used to indicate a range or a pause. Dashes are used to separate groups of words, not to separate parts of words like a hyphen does. (Learn more about the difference between a ...

  22. Decoding the Double Hyphen Symbol in Modern Writing

    The double hyphen symbol is a fascinating example of how language and punctuation adapt to technological constraints and changes. While it's a relic of the typewriter era, its usage in digital writing today underscores the dynamic nature of written communication. Whether you're crafting a novel, an email, or a social media post, understanding ...

  23. How to Use Milanote as a Creative Writer

    2. Choose a Creative Writing Template . Double-click on your new board to open it. You can start planning from scratch, but Milanote offers templates, too, specifically for writers.