Hyphen in English

Hyphen in English

The basic rules for using a hyphen are contained in the English grammar section, but in this case we would like to focus on the varieties of the hyphen and some of their features. 

Surely you have already come across long and short dashes, hyphens, minus, etc. So, all of them are varieties of this punctuation mark, which are quite a lot in English. 

Of course, each type of hyphen has its own usage rule. But we all know that there is an exception to every rule. Therefore, we consider it appropriate to go through the general rules for the use of each type of hyphen. 



It is also called the m-dash. The second name was given due to the fact that the length of the punctuation mark is equal to the length of the letter. Sometimes there are longer cases. Several long dashes placed one behind the other should form a solid line. 

You can use such a dash instead of a comma, colon, or brackets. In other words, if you need to indicate a long pause, then a dash is put. 

We also use it for quotation. 

Strive not for success, but for the values it gives. – Albert Einstein 


Important! No other punctuation marks are added to the dash. Also, in American English, it is not customary to separate dashes with spaces from words, as they do everywhere, according to the rules of Internet punctuation. 

But even here there are exceptions. For example, when an n dash with a space is used instead of an m dash. 



An n-dash, or n dash, is equal in length to this letter in lowercase or uppercase. In some fonts, such a dash is slightly thicker than a regular hyphen to show their difference. 

Usually such a dash serves to indicate ranges, but it can also serve as a link between two objects. 

  • So, it had happened between 24-26 of August. 
  • I booked Moscow-Paris flight for us. 


Double dash 

These are two m dashes, standing next to each other without any separators. It is used to censor some words, or just to show that some letters are omitted. 

  • She said me he was very d—b (dumb) 
  • It was Mr H—l who did that



The length and position in the line is slightly different from the dash. It is used mainly to express a negative number in the text, or performs its direct function - subtraction. In some cases, it is easily replaced by an n dash or hyphen. 



The shortest, but not the least important sign in this group. It is worth remembering that the hyphen and dash are two completely different punctuation marks with their own functions and tasks. A hyphen is usually used in the middle of a word in the following cases: 

- In hyphenation notation 

- To separate some prefixes from the roots of the word 

- in titles 

- in compound words 


Basic rules for using a hyphen 

1. Fractions and compound numbers

According to the grammar rule, all numbers from 21 to 99 must be written with a hyphen: twenty-seven, forty-five, ninety-one, etc. 

In fractions, a hyphen separates the numerator from the denominator: two-thirds, one-half, three-fifths 

2. Compound nouns

Some compound nouns are also written with a hyphen. Note that not all complex lexical units are included here. 

  • Brother-in-law 
  • Fife-year-old
  • Forget-me-not

3. Addition of words

When adding words, most often professions, there is also a hyphen 

  • Writer-storyteller 
  • Producer-songwriter

In this case, there will be no hyphen between nouns, one of which describes the other. 

4. Compound adjectives

Some compound adjectives before nouns are written with a hyphen: 

  • Middle-aged man
  • Kind-hearted person

5. Combining adjectives with adverbs well, best, better, ill, little, lower:

  • Well-known writer 
  • Low-paid job

Remember that such complex adjectives must come before the noun. Only in this case they will be separated by a hyphen. If the adjective comes after the auxiliary verb, then the hyphen is not needed. 

  • This actor is well paid 

6. Complex modifiers, the second word of which is a present or future participle

  • Two-room apartment 
  • Twenty-century movie

7. Splitting words before a noun

  • All-you-can-eat buffet
  • in-and-out store 

8. With prefixes and suffixes

  • Self-improvement
  • Ex-girlfriend
  • Pre-recording