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Where to put hyphens

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After reading a draft of something by a colleague, I asked her how she decides when to use hyphens. She responded tartly: “Hyphens. You mean like in well-spoken, or half-assed? I’m not sure. I don’t care for them.” Personally, I’m a big fan of hyphens and sarcasm won’t deter me. Hyphens are different of course from dashes, which come in two flavors: en dashes and em dashes. The en dash (sometimes called the en rule) is the width of the letter n—longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash. The en dash is used to indicate ranges of numbers and to substitute for words like to or and (as in an east–west route). It’s also used many forms of joint action, such as a US–Canada negotiation or the mind–body problem. The em dash is the width of a letter m. It is used like parentheses or colons—to indicate an interruption, afterthought or elaboration—but while the parentheses are a soft whisper to the reader, the em dash is a hand waving for attention. The em dash can even be doubled to. . .

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News source: Linguistics – OUPblog

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