Hyphens And Dashes


  • join two or more words together. Examples: door-to-door,  editor-in-chief
  • attach prefixes to words. Examples: ex-wife, non-executive, co-worker
  • are used to avoid ambiguity:
  1. He wants to re-cover his furniture (to put new covers on it).
  2. He wants to recover his furniture (to get it back from someone).

The rules of hyphens and numbers:

  • Use hyphens in compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
  • Use hyphens in fractions. Examples: one-fifth, three-quarters.
  • Use hyphens when the number is part of an adjectival compound:
  1. China has a seven-day working week.
  2. He lost the 800-metre hurdles.
  3. Chinua Achebe is a great twentieth-century novelist.

Many hyphenated words have become single words. Examples: e-mail and email, web-site and website, tool-bar and toolbar, hyper-link and hyperlink.


Publishers call a dash an “em-dash” because it is the width of the letter m. A dash is used to add a statement—like this—in the same way you would use brackets. The bracket is preferable to the dash in formal writing. Dashes can also be used to create emphasis in a sentence. Example: He looks like an angel—he isn’t.

If you want to improve your business writing, join us for The Plain Language Programme.

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  3. The Ellipsis
  4. Semicolons and Colons
  5. 93 Extremely Bad Business Writing Habits to Break
  6. Commonly confused abbreviations: etc., i.e., e.g.
  7. Punctuation and Dialogue
  8. What is a sentence fragment?
  9. The 12 Worst Mistakes People Make In Email Subject Lines
  10. Begin at the end – the one essential email trick every business writer should know