To hyphenate or dash it? When size does matter – that troublesome little line between words.

Cartoon drawing hyphen

Often-used punctuation, but the length of the line varies.

We have dashes ( – ) and hyphens ( - ).  This is a simplified guide on use.


Looks like: ( – ) Also called the En dash

Dashes are used in several ways:

  • To help explain or conclude something from text that has just been written


He had just got out of bed – hence the untidy hair.

Sally was good at maths – she passed all her college exams.

Tom was a gifted musician – hence the invitation to play in the orchestra.

  • To highlight a point that could be put in brackets (parentheses)


There are many different buses – including three silver ones – that go from the bus station.

You can include chocolate – dark, milk or white – in your cakes.

I like to practise my painting – whether watercolour or acrylic – before I start any new piece.

  • To show a range


See pages 1 – 5.

Look it up in your A – Z of London.

Office hours are 9.00am – 5.00pm.


Looks like: ( - )

Hyphens are used to join words where the words work together to describe something.   Below are a few examples:

  • This is a long-stay car park.
  • I have been offered a full-time job.
  • We are going on a fact-finding mission.

Hyphens are also used to create compound words.  For example:

  • I recommend an anti-inflammatory
  • He is a co-owner of the company
  • We need to ask the decision-makers for their opinions.

If unsure, check your word in a good dictionary.  If it is not there, it is best to split the words.

For more information, you could try:

Jane Thomas

Milton Contact Ltd