dashes between words

A dash is also called a hyphen. I bet you thought they were two different punctuation marks, but they are not. Let’s consider them as siblings. The dash is the elder one and the hyphen, is the younger and most favored sibling.

A lot of people are often left looking up at the sky or ceiling when writing. In most cases, it’s because they are stuck and thinking of where and when to use a hyphen. Well, in this article, you’ll discover when to use dashes between words. If you don’t want to be caught looking confused when writing next time, hang on tight till the end of the article to learn more about how you can use a hyphen.

How To Use a Hyphen in Compound Words

When writing, it is inevitable to use compound words, and most times, it can get confusing to determine where the dash should be placed. There are two general rules for using a hyphen in compound words and they’ll be explained with relatable examples below:

Rule 1.

This first rule applies to compound adjectives. It states that you MUST hyphenate two or more words if they come before a noun they modify. This will make them stand alone as a single word or idea.

Quick Example:

– Beware of the green-eyed monster.

The hyphenated word, ‘green-eyed’ modifies the noun, ‘Monster’. And you don’t need to worry. The ‘Monster’ is not Grinch. He’s not stealing Christmas.

Another sub-rule under Rule 1 states that when the compound adjective comes after the noun in the sentence, you don’t need to include a hyphen.

What does that mean? Check out the example below:

Quick Example:

– My house is off campus.

Typically, the two words: ‘off’ and ‘campus’ are supposed to take a hyphen to make it a compound adjective. However, since it comes after the noun, ‘house’, the hyphen is not necessary.

The last rule under Rule 1 states that you MUST hyphenate words that are compound adjectives by nature. Do you know any of them? Here is a list of words that have this attribute:

  • White-collar.
  • Long-term.
  • Short-handed.
  • Ill-minded.
  • Ice-cold.
  • Grass-fed.
  • Home-bred.

So, a quick example for sub-rule three.

Quick Example:

– Hey, Waiter, I’m vegan. But get me a grass-fed Steak. Medium rare, please. Thank you!

The compound adjective, ‘grass-fed’, MUST be hyphenated because it is what it is. Hats off to all vegans out there! It is what it is.

Rule 2

Moving on, we have another rule. This general rule states that you use a suspended hyphen to separate words when two or more compound adjectives come before the noun they modify. Check out the correct and incorrect usage of this rule below, so you don’t make a mistake next time:

Incorrect Use 👎🏻

You can expect a three-four-hours delay before your order arrives.

Correct Use 👍🏻

You can expect a three- to four-week delay before your order arrives.

Alternatively, you can write it like this:

You can expect a three-week to four-week delay before your order arrives.

Or you may want to use rewritetool.net‘s AI rewriter for better results:

Your order may take three to four weeks to arrive. (The output this time is simple, and to the point)

How To Use Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes

It is easy to identify a prefix and suffix, but do you know that there are cases where you need to include a hyphen? If you’re still in college, understand that these little errors will lead to mark deduction in your essay. You want to write solid essays, right? Check out how you can use a hyphen with suffix and prefix.

How To Use a Hyphen With Prefix

A prefix is the combo of a root word and another word attached to the beginning of the root word. There are prefixes that do not require hyphens and there are some that require hyphens. To avoid confusion, check out the examples below:

1. Use a hyphen with when writing words with these prefixes “all-“, “cross-“, “ex-“, and “self-“.

Quick example: Cross-examine, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend, all-knowing.

2. Use hyphens when the prefix precedes proper nouns, abbreviations or numbers.

Quick example: Mid-2019, trans-generational.

3. Hyphenate the prefix if it ends with the same vowel that is present in the root word. Check out the examples below to understand:

Quick example: Words like: intra-arterial, co-occur, anti-immune.

4. Use a hyphen after the prefix to show a clear and concise meaning of a word to avoid confusion.

Quick example: Instead of writing “re sign”, write “re-sign”. This will let the reader know they are to sign again and not quit their job. Imagine what it will cause if that little dash is missing from a letter gotten your employer. Instant panic, right?

How To Use a Hyphen With Suffix

A suffix is the word attached after a root word to give it a new meaning so that the word fits into the context it is to be used. Like the prefix, there are cases where the words need to be hyphenated. Check out the instances below:

1. Suffixes like “-type,” “-elect,” and “-designate.” MUST be hyphenated.

Quick example: Governor-elect, Bold-type.

2. The suffix “-like” is hyphenated when it appears in environments like:

– When the root word has three or more syllables.

Quick example: Emulsion-like, factory-like.

– When three Ls are present in a word, the suffix, “-like” is hyphenated.

Quick example: Shell-like, bell-like.

– The suffix, “-like” is usually hyphenated when the root word is a proper noun.

Quick example: Apple-like computer (most of our devices), New York-like pizza

3. Always use a hyphen before the suffix, “-fold” if the number is greater than 10 or can not be determined. Also, you use a hyphen for numbers that contain decimals.

Quick example: Ten-folds, 1.25-folds.

NOTE: Numbers less than ten do not require an hyphen. For example: twofold, ninefold, threefold.

Other Times To Use a Hyphen

There are other ways you can use hyphens when writing. For example, when you’re writing complex numbers like twenty-one or ninety-nine.

In a similar vein, when you want to write out fractions, you use hyphens. I know you must be used to writing fractions in numbers, but when it comes to writing it as words, you use a hyphen to demarcate. For example, 2/3 will be written as two-thirds.

On A Final Note:

Hyphens are a widely confused punctuation mark. In this article, we have discussed extensively on how you can use a hyphen to join more than one word correctly. To round off, take this away with you, and NEVER forget this: Hyphens should never be spaced when writing.

When to Use Dashes Between Words?

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