Using Dashes and Hyphens
Do not confuses dashes and hyphens. Dashes are two typed hyphens (--) used to connect sentence parts. Hyphens (-) are used to connect two words used as one or to indicate a break in syllables. The mistake is generally made in not hitting the hyphen key twice to indicate that a dash is needed and not a hyphen.
1. Use a dash to connect parenthetical or aside marks to the rest of the sentence.
Ex. A: The twelve polar bears were large--and I mean LARGE.
Ex. A: Brendan's latest fling--not to be confused with his permanent fling--learned that she wasn't the only woman in his life.
2. Use a hyphen to connect two words used as one.
Ex. A: When we found the super-soft cotton mattress, we were in seventh heaven.
Ex. B: The two-toned car had been used in several recent crimes.
3. Use a hyphen to break syllable across a line break. Most word processing programs either do not break apart words at a line break or can be programmed to do so automatically.
Ex. A: Winter and Scooter were known for their playfulness, particularly when the hypo- chondriacs who were their owners left out the pill bottles.
Ex. B: Carefully insert the cotton swab
into the test tube, swish it around to collect the mito-
chondrial matter, and swab that matter onto the agar.
Return to Grammar and Punctuation or OWL.