Understanding Hyphen: How To Use It, Where To Use It

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Understanding Hyphen: How To Use It, Where To Use It

Understanding Hyphen

The punctuation mark used to link words together to create compounds, such as “left-handed,” is a hyphen. A hyphen is also used to indicate that a word’s remainder is on the following line. The hyphen connects words or word fragments.

When a word has been divided across multiple lines, hyphens signal the reader that the word continues on the following line. The term is a contraction of the Ancient Greek root “in one.”

Before word spacing became common, a hyphen was used to separate two adjacent letters into different words when it was necessary to do so to avoid ambiguity.

Although several style manuals offer extensive use guidelines and have a substantial degree of overlap in their recommendations, the English language lacks definite punctuation standards. Hyphens are typically used to combine different words into single words or to divide single words into pieces.

Except when employing a suspended or “hanging” hyphen to represent a repeating word, no spaces should be used between a hyphen and any of the parts it connects.


Using hyphens and dashes in style has developed to enable easy reading of complicated formulations; editors frequently tolerate deviations if they facilitate rather than obstruct simple comprehension.

Although em dashes and hyphens should not be used interchangeably, there are certain use similarities (in which either a hyphen or an en dash may be acceptable, depending on user preference, as discussed below). In casual writing, the hyphen frequently takes the place of the en dash.

Put the hyphen after the first of the two sections if the term you need to split is composed of two or smaller words or pieces. The hyphen should always be placed at the end of a syllable. If the term is brief, adding a hyphen would require writing only one or two letters at the end or beginning of a line.

Hyphens are used to separate some complex terms, such as self-control. The numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine should also be hyphenated when written out. However, if you’re unsure of whether a hyphen or not belongs in a compound term, consult a dictionary or style manual.

Over time, hyphenated words typically degenerate into closed compounds. For instance, using email instead of e-mail becomes more popular.

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