IELTS, TOEFL & TOEIC writing: Hyphens and dashes, how are they used?

ScottsEnglishScottsEnglish Administrator Posts: 1,137 admin ✭✭✭✭✭✭✭
edited May 2017 in Grammar

Hyphens and dashes

Hyphens and dashes are the short line "-" that can be used to divide a word at the end of a line (hyphen), connect the words of a compound word (hyphen) or set aside a part of a sentence (dash).

First, hyphens can be used at the end of a line when a word needs to be broken in order to keep the line neat. Use a dictionary to determine the syllables of a word in order to divide it (but today most word processors divide a word correctly). An example might be, at the end of a line, "super- natural" or "extra-ordinary".

Also, hyphens are used in compound words. Common family words, such as "sister-in-law" or "mother-in-law" are compound words that need a hyphen to link the words. Another example is "year-old" when it is used as an adjective. The ten-year-old boy is playing in the yard.

Notice that in both cases, there is no space between the words and the hyphen.

When a dash is used in a sentence, it establishes a separate idea or emphasizes an idea. Examples: "The man - cold, tired, weak - went into the first hotel he found.", or, "A dog who is barking might seem menacing - but it isn't likely to bite."

Notice that there is a space before and after the dash. It is good to recognize the usage of dashes in writing, but be careful about using them in your own writing. Over-emphasizing (notice the hyphen) using dashes is a sign or poor writing, while correctly using hyphens shows a good knowledge of English spelling.


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