Ever notice the use of the hyphen and the dash? As a writer, I've wondered if anyone really notices. In this short two-part series we will explore the hyphen and the dash. First, the hyphen, and here's something really interesting, it appears that we only notice small parts of English grammar when we are given a writing assignment; when we want to place emphasis on a certain part of our writings, or when we want to improve our writing skills.
If you've been given a writing assignment and are wondering whether it would be better to use a dash or a hyphen, the following definitions and examples of the hyphen and its uses will give you a clearer understanding of when and how to use the hyphen .
The hyphen is a punctuation mark in the English language that looks like a short line (-) hanging in midair between two or more words. The three-fold purpose of the hyphen is to divide, compound, and / or to show a relationship.
The three main purposes for the use of the hyphen are:
- To divide: The use of the hyphen to divide is mostly used to clarify the use of numbers. Though a number may sound like one word, it's really not. Take for example the number 23, would you write twentythree or would you write twenty-three? What about 55, would you write fiftyfive or fifty-five? Then what about 78 and so on?
- To create compound words or names: Another use of the hyphen is to create compound words, which means bringing two or more words or names together to make one word or name. Examples of this use are: power-driven, goal-oriented, self-improvement, red-faced, Editor-in-Chief, Fischer-Johnson.
- To show a relationship: The most common use of the hyphen is used to show a relationship between two concepts especially as in dates between birth and death on a tombstone, an obituary, or on historical information as in George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) . It is also used in keeping game scores, Turtles vs. Rabbits 14-15. And yes, even in Subject-Verb Agreement.
So if you've been someone who struggles with the use of a hyphen, then struggle no more. The main points to remember are that the hyphen is generally used to divide, to create compound words, or to show a relationship between ideas, concepts, or objects.
I hope you stick around because the definition and examples of the dash and its uses are just around the corner. Do stay tuned.