Dashes and Hyphens

When using dashes and em dashes, there are a few instances where university style diverges from AP.

Em Dashes (—)
  • There is no space between the words and the em dash.

  • A sentence should contain no more than two em dashes; otherwise, set off using parentheses.

  • Use an em dash after a statement of particulars, and also after a summary of particulars, although here a colon might well be used.
    Example: Reputation, money, friends—all were sacrificed

  • Use an em dash before an author's name after a quotation.
    Example: "The new dean will keep the school at the forefront of higher education."—John Jones, president

  • Use an em dash before a statement made for effect or explanation.
    Example: Watch your life and doctrine closely—if you do, you save yourself and your hearers.

  • Use an em dash to denote an abrupt change in thought
    Example: I love his writing—but what an ego!

  • Use em dashes to emphasize a parenthetical expression
    Example: In the confusion—and 50 people all standing and waving their arms—I forgot to pick up my notes.

En Dashes (–)
  • The main use of the en dash is to connect numbers; it is used to connect words less often.
    Example: 1900–1995
    Example: fiscal year 2009–10
    Example: Cleveland beat Cincinnati 24–10.
    Example: The Cedar Road–SOM Center Road bus leaves at noon.

  • There is no space between the words or numbers and the en dash.

  • An en dash signifies through, so that, for example, 1900-1995 includes 1995.

  • To keep construction parallel, do not use the en dash with the word from.
    Example: She was a college student from 1999 to 2004.
    Instead of: She was in college from 1999-2004.

Use a Hyphen
  • When an adjective appears before a noun.
    Examples: high-paid player, three-day suspension

  • When joining two or more separate words to form a single modifier that precedes the noun it modifies.
    Examples: present-worth analysis; a health-related impact; an ill-advised act; a well-qualified candidate

  • In compounds that indicate a combination of systems, forces, methods or colors.
    Examples: alpha-beta, blue-green

  • In spelled-out compound numbers from 21 to 99.
    Examples: twenty-one, ninety-nine

  • Use hyphens in spelled-out fractions.
    Examples: a one-fourth increase, a three-quarter-length coat

  • Use a hyphen when joining numbers to units of measurement. Avoid excessively long compounds of this sort.
    Examples: a 24,000-square-foot area, an area of 24,000 square feet

  • Use a hyphen to join whole numbers to fractions.
    Examples: 3-3/4 inches; 11-15/16 inches

  • Dangling, in a series, to denote connection between the series and a following word modified by each of the elements in the series.
    Example: one-, two-, and three-volume works
    Example: The department offers part- and full-tuition scholarships

Do Not Use a Hyphen
  • When a modifier appears after a verb.
    Example: Lebron James is highly paid.

  • In compound adjectives that contain adverb forms ending in "ly" unless the hyphen is needed for clarity.
    Example: Three federally funded programs were renewed.
    Example: The privately owned companies did not disclose financial details.
    Example: early-morning talk

  • Instead of the word "to" in ranges, except to save space in nonnarrative copy or to show page-number spans in bibliographic references.
    Example: The container can hold 300 to 500 pounds.

  • In names of chemical compounds, even when used as adjectives that precede the nouns they modify.
    Examples: a sodium chloride solution; a mixture containing sodium dihydrogen phosphate; the carbon dioxide process

  • In some noun compounds that are commonly used together.
    Examples: high school student; junior college campus