EnglishGrammarPunctuationsHyphen Symbol – Meaning, Definition, Usage and Examples

Hyphen Symbol – Meaning, Definition, Usage and Examples

Hyphen Symbol: The hyphen, denoted by “-“, is a versatile punctuation mark used in writing to link words or parts of words. Its main role is in forming compound words like “well-known” or “high-quality” by combining two or more words. Additionally, it’s used for various purposes such as indicating word breaks, forming compound adjectives, and connecting prefixes and suffixes. Despite its small size, the hyphen is crucial for clarity and precision in written English. In this article, we’ll explore the symbol of hyphen, role of hyphens in compound words, their definition, meaning, and usage, along with examples.

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    Hyphen Symbol Definition and Examples

    A hyphen is a punctuation mark (-) used primarily to join words together, particularly in compound words or to separate syllables in words at the end of a line. It serves to link words, prefixes, or suffixes to form compound words or to clarify word combinations.

    For example, in the word “mother-in-law,” the hyphen connects the words to create a compound noun. Similarly, in “self-esteem,” the hyphen joins the prefix “self” with the root word “esteem.” Furthermore, hyphens are used to indicate word breaks in line wrapping and to form compound adjectives before nouns, such as “well-known author.” Hyphen plays a crucial role in enhancing readability, conveying precise meaning, and facilitating clear communication in written English.

    Must Read: How to Learn English Quickly

    Using Hyphens in Your Writing – Guidelines and Key Considerations

    Hyphens serve as connectors between two words to create compound words, but they possess additional functions as well. Let’s explore these points:

    • Hyphens can denote physical quantities when the unit is written out, rather than when it’s abbreviated.
    • They are used with numbers to indicate time frames, distance estimates, and other attributes.
    • Hyphens are employed when expressing the age of people or objects.
    • In writing, they are included in compound numbers and fractions only when spelled out.
    • Additionally, hyphens are added when attaching prefixes and suffixes, although this isn’t always necessary.
    • Incorporating these guidelines will help ensure clarity and consistency in your writing.

    When to Use a Hyphen in a Sentence

    Compound Words: Use hyphens to join two or more words that function together as a single concept, such as “mother-in-law” or “editor-in-chief.”

    Prefixes and Suffixes: Hyphens are used with certain prefixes (like “ex-“, “self-“, “all-“) and suffixes to clarify meaning, for example, “ex-marine” or “self-aware.”

    Numbers and Fractions: Apply hyphens in compound numbers (twenty-one) and spelled-out fractions (three-fourths).

    Ages and Time Spans: Use hyphens when indicating the age of a person or object (“a five-year-old child”) and for time spans (“a 10-year period”).

    Avoiding Ambiguity: Use hyphens to prevent confusion in word combinations, such as “re-cover” (to cover again) versus “recover” (to get better).

    Compound Adjectives Before Nouns: Hyphenate compound adjectives when they come before a noun, like “well-known artist” or “high-risk investment.”

    Word Breaks: Hyphens can be used at the end of a line to divide a word between syllables if it doesn’t fit.

    Read Related Punctuation Marks

    Comma Punctuation Mark Full Stop Punctuation Mark Semicolon Punctuation Mark

    Hyphen Symbol Sentence Examples

    Category Examples
    Hyphens for Physical Quantities
    • I had to carry a fifty-pound suitcase up to the fourth floor yesterday.
    • Ravi found a ten-centimeter-long lizard on a tree in his yard.
    • Due to a wrist injury, Raj struggled to lift a three-kilogram bag of flour last week.
    Hyphens in Compound Words
    • Lila was a free-spirited child who loved every moment of her life.
    • Sarah had a clear-eyed perspective on the issue.
    • I didn’t realize that the blue-striped shirt I bought was torn.
    Hyphens for Time Frames, Distances, and Attributes
    • They told us the workshop would run from 2:00-4:00 p.m.
    • We anticipated 300-500 attendees at the conference, but nearly 1000 showed up.
    • Jessica said we needed to drive 2-3 miles after the roundabout to reach the park.
    Hyphens for Age
    • We were amazed to see the eighty-year-old man running a marathon.
    • Our six-year-old son won the art contest.
    • The fifteen-year celebration of our business is next month.
    Hyphens in Fractions and Compound Numbers
    • Alex ate half of the pie on his own.
    • More than one-fourth of the city’s population voted.
    • Thirty-five participants advanced to the final round.
    Hyphens with Prefixes and Suffixes
    • The ex-athlete now coaches local teams.
    • He had a self-imposed deadline for the project.
    • My great-aunt is visiting next week.

    How to Use Hyphens

    • Linking Words: Connect words that belong together to form a single idea, such as “part-time” or “user-friendly.”
    • Clarity with Prefixes: Add hyphens with prefixes to avoid misreading, for instance, “co-op” (cooperative) instead of “coop” (a cage for chickens).
    • Combining Numbers: Use hyphens to combine numbers into compound terms, like “thirty-two” or “ninety-nine.”
    • Descriptive Phrases: When a compound adjective comes before a noun, use a hyphen to link the words together for clear meaning, such as “long-term plan.”
    • Avoiding Misinterpretation: Ensure clarity by using hyphens where needed to maintain the intended meaning of your sentence, like “re-creation” (creating again) versus “recreation” (fun activity).
    • Breaking Words: When breaking words at the end of a line, place the hyphen at the syllable break, ensuring readability and flow.

    By following these guidelines, you can effectively use hyphens to improve clarity and precision in your writing.

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    Hyphen vs. Dash – What’s the Difference?

    Feature Hyphen Dash
    Symbol – (en dash) / — (em dash)
    Length Short En dash is longer than a hyphen; em dash is longer than an en dash
    Usage Joins words to form compound terms Separates parts of a sentence or indicates a pause
    Examples of Usage Mother-in-law, well-known, twenty-one 2020–2021 (en dash), She was there—right on time. (em dash)
    Numbers Used in compound numbers (twenty-one) Used for ranges of numbers (10–15)
    Prefixes/Suffixes Joins prefixes/suffixes to words (ex-president) Not typically used with prefixes or suffixes
    Compound Adjectives Links adjectives before nouns (high-speed chase) Not used for compound adjectives
    Word Breaks Used at line breaks for word continuation Not used for breaking words
    Punctuation No space before or after hyphen Spaces before and after em dash (usually)
    Interruption/Pause Not used for pauses in sentences Indicates interruption or a long pause (em dash)

    FAQ’s on Hyphen Symbol

    How to Use Hyphen in a Sentence?

    Hyphens are used in sentences to join words that form a single concept or to clarify word combinations. For example, She bought a well-made dress uses a hyphen to link well and made to form the compound adjective well-made.

    What are 5 Uses for a Hyphen?

    Combining compound words (for instance, mother-in-law), connecting prefixes and suffixes to root words (like ex-husband), indicating compound numbers and fractions (such as twenty-one), separating sentence parts for clarity or emphasis (for example, well-being), and crafting compound adjectives before nouns (as in high-speed chase) are all vital functions of the hyphen, ensuring precision and coherence in language usage.

    What is a Sentence for Hyphenated?

    An example sentence for hyphenated could be: The surname Smith-Jones is hyphenated to reflect both family names. Here, hyphenated is used to describe the action of connecting two words with a hyphen to create a compound term.

    How Does a Hyphen Differ from an Em Dash?

    A hyphen is a shorter punctuation mark (-) primarily used to join words or parts of words, while an em dash (—) is longer and used to indicate a break in thought, an abrupt interruption, or to set off a parenthetical statement within a sentence.

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