Dashes and hyphens aren’t the same thing.

  • A hyphen makes compound words.
  • An en dash (the shorter dash) expresses a range of values (times, years, dollar amounts).
  • An em dash creates an interruption in a sentence like a semicolon, but with flair (we’re partial). (Keyboard equivalent: option+shift+hyphen, or in MS Word, two hyphens no spaces will auto-adjust.)

Don’t include a space on either side of a hyphen or dash.

Use a hyphen if you’re using the number with the unit of measure as an adjective. Don’t use a hyphen when writing terms like “Sign in” unless they’re an adjective describing a noun that follows (ex: sign-in screen). Never use a hyphen for verbs like “set up” when the noun version (setup) is a single word.

Compound adjectives can negatively impact readability, so we should use them sparingly and stick to ones that are commonly used or familiar.

Hyphenated words

For common prefixes, such as re-, pre-, non-, anti-, multi-, bi, and so forth, don’t use the hyphen.

Exceptions: e-commerce, e-file, e-pay, multi-user, non-posting, non-sufficient, sub-category

Examples

antibody
antitrust
antivirus
biannual
biennial
copay
coworker
multicolor
multicultural
multilevel
nonprofit
nontaxable
nonresident
noninventory
online
preassigned
predefined
preexisting
preselected
unpaid

Hyphen examples

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I’m reading nineteenth-century novels in the early twentieth century.
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En dash examples

$500–$800
7:00–9:00 PM
2004–2016

Em dash examples

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—Suze Orman