Hyphen | Use of Hyphens And All About Hyphens In English Language

Hyphen: To separate syllables of a single word, join the words then the punctuation mark is used called the Hyphen. We use hyphens in joining words or anything else. Mother-in-law is an example of a hyphenated word. Many times it’s confused with a dash, en dash, em dash, horizontal bar, which are long in size compared to that of Hyphen, and they have different functions.

Hyphen is also one of the problematic punctuation marks to use. Hyphen is usually confused with en dashes and em dashes as they all look similar. But thankfully, the functions of hyphens are different from those similar-looking punctuations. So, we will learn how to use hyphens and study how hyphens differ from en dashes and em dashes.

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Basic Introduction on Hyphen Mark

Hyphen as a punctuation mark. And it has a total of 3 main uses. Many writers think hyphen and dash are the same things, but it’s the wrong concept. Both the punctuation marks are quite different. Hyphen is denoted like this (-) in the English language. The use of a hyphen is a small line joining two words. Hyphen is a punctuation mark smaller than em dash (—) and en dash (–). As this hyphen, em dash and en dash differ in their lengths. One is bigger than the other is smaller. We haven’t reached the function and properties yet, but differences started from size. Hyphen is used in compound words so that one can join words to their prefixes. And it is also used to show word breaks.
Points to Ponder

While using hyphens, many rules and functions can be used, and it’s hard to remember those rules and then apply them. This is because hyphens are very different from em dashes and en dashes. Also, many people believe as if they are equal, but that’s completely wrong. If you keep studying and applying the function and rules regularly, you can have a good grip on using hyphens. And remember the rules of when not to use the hyphens so you can save yourself from the mistakes others make while using these hyphens.

Some of the examples of hyphens Using in English sentences are

  1. A Hindi-speaking country.
  2. A full-length portrait of the lion hung on the wall
  3. Writing on your loved ones is a never-ending task
  4. She works thirty-four hours a week.

As we all know, the hyphen symbol seems like a dash, but it is also clear that they aren’t similar by the above information. Many people symbolise dash as a long hyphen which is an entirely wrong point because that’s again starting to confuse people. So better to use correct words for their symbols like hyphen (-) en dash (–), and em dash (—).

When And How To Use Hyphens

Hyphens can be used in many ways, and they are used more in comparison to en dash (–) and em dash (—). Hyphens are used a lot in English compared to those of en dash (–) and em dash (—), and also has many functions and rules. We will try our best to cover all the parts related to hyphens information, but still, you’ll find some usage of hyphens which aren’t explained here but no need to worry about that as if your concept is clear, it’s easier to use than. Hyphens are used in many non-standard and informal writings.

Compound Words

When hyphens are used in compound words, that is some standard use of that punctuation mark. To convey only one meaning: these words are joined together.

This is very easy and common too. Look at a few examples to understand the point clearly.

  1. Nature-friendly
  2. Check-out

Prefixes to word

Hyphens can also be used if one wants to join a prefix with words. This is very easy and common too. Look at a few examples to understand the point clearly.

  1. ex-boyfriend
  2. all-rounder


How To Use Participle And Hyphens Together?

Hyphens can be used with present participle and past participle. Still, only the condition is participle and adjective, combined to describe something else that always comes after the noun. Drop Hyphen if and only if the noun comes first. Here we have discussed two examples to understand, the first one is the present participle, and the second one is the past participle.

  1. A beautiful-looking girl stood proudly in front of her ex-boyfriend (the present participle)
  2. A girl stood in front of her ex-boyfriend, it was beautiful looking (past participle)

As before nouns, we used adjectives and participle, so we were okay with using hyphens.

Hyphens With Compound Modifiers

A composition modifier means joining or connecting two words as one adjective to describe something else.


Whenever we write numbers in words, and if they are more than one, we often use hyphens to connect them. For example

  1. Thirty-Three
  2. Sixty-eight
  3. Ninety-nine


Whenever we aren’t representing a fraction by a number, we are using a word for expressing it. Then again, we need Hyphen to make it possible.

  1. She ate four-fifths of an apple.
  2. This pizza was cut into six pieces, and she took four-sixths for herself.

Spelt Out Words

Sometimes we need to spell out a word in English. Whenever we are spelling out the word, we use hyphens between each letter.

“And what is your name, gentleman?” a young girl asked.

“And how am I writing that?”

Multi syllable words

Sometimes we try to show the number of syllables in a word. While in the beginning, if you are a teacher and teaching your students English, then multi syllables can help you.

Indicating a Stammer

In fiction writing, Indicating a Stammer is mainly used. Otherwise, you’ll not find its use anywhere else. If you are representing your character such as they are scared of something and their voice is trembling, then we can also use hyphens for this condition

Example of Indicating a Stammer

“Pl-please don’t do this with us!”

High or low with Hyphens

It’s compulsory to hyphenate the words when using high or low as a compound word to describe something.

When not to use a hyphenate

You aren’t allowed to hyphenate when the noun that you are describing comes before the adjective. And there are many more points and functions which show that we should not use a hyphen.

The key Hyphen rules

To avoid grammatical mistakes, this is one rule to keep in mind. When in a compound adjective, the participle is used when you use the words before a noun.


Origin And History

Dionysius Thrax is the discoverer of Hyphen, and he found this when he was working on grammatical work. The two words, which are read separately, are joined using hyphenation. In Greeks, the low tie marks were known as emoticons and then further on, It was romanized as a hyphen.

When the letter spacing is introduced in middle age, hyphens can still be written Beneath the text, which reverses the meanings. Hyphens were used by scribes when one wants to connect two words that are separated incorrectly. We also use hyphens so that these two words are joint and not broken across the lines.

Johannes Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, c. 1455 originated the modern hyphen format with the publication of his 42-line Bible. He used tools for these, and he found that the sublinear Hyphen feature isn’t allowed in that tool, and that’s why he moved the hyphen to the middle of the line.

FAQ’s on Hyphen

Question 1.
How does a hyphen look?

People usually call it a dash, minus, subtract or negative.

Question 2.
Difference between hyphen and dash?

An average difference between a dash and a hyphen is that a dash is longer than a hyphen.

Question 3.
Define Hyphen And Give Some Of Its Examples?

When we want to separate part of a compound word, then a hyphen is used. In short, you can call a hyphen owner as it joins the words.

Examples: nine-horses, fry-pan, re-election.

Question 4.
When should a hyphen be used?

We have to use a hyphen before the noun when the two words are functioning together as an adjective; leave the hyphen out when the noun comes first.

Question 5.
What’s the role of a hyphen in a sentence?

If two words can be joined in a sentence and we can make it a single word, then we can use a hyphen. If you want to attach a prefix to a word, then hyphens are used. One can connect adverbs and adjectives to describe a noun using a hyphen.

Question 6.
How do you use hyphens and dashes?

You can use dash after an independent clause, and on the other way, the hyphen is used to connect two words.

Question 7.
What Is A Hyphenated Person?

A person who performs more than one function together is known as a hyphenated person.

This is all we can try in our article to provide information about hyphens, and I hope it’s informative and precise your base level knowledge about how and where to use these hyphens. And much more additional information is also provided related to Hyphen.

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