Correct Usage of Hyphens, En Dashes, and Em Dashes Explained Essay

Correct Usage of Hyphens in English Grammar

Using proper hyphens in HTML is an important part of creating web documents. Because the majority of people type HTML text rather than clip art or images, it is critical that the document is correctly formatted. While correct usage of hyphens is not difficult to learn, there are several different forms of hyphens that are commonly used in HTML text.

Example #1: “The man who won the lottery”

An example of correct usage would be “the man who won the lottery.” This is an example of a compound adjective, which describes a noun. The word ‘man’ can be used in the singular and the plural, however, it should only be used in the singular. Compound adjectives have two factors added to them, which makes them more difficult to learn than other types of adjectives. Most people are familiar with the use of Comma (, ) and Enclitics (.)

Example #2: “The man who lived in Los Angeles”

An example of compound adjectives that would be most confusing would be “the man who lived in Los Angeles.” This is a much clearer example than “the man who lived in California” because the word ‘man’ is being used two times in the clause. Because most browsers display hyphens only when they are used at the start of a sentence, your web pages will look very messy if you use En dashes without letting your browser to recognize them.

Another common mistake made by most users is over-use of En and Em dashes. A good rule of thumb for determining the usage of hyphens in your own writing is to assume that everyone reading your page is capable of following simple rules of English grammar. For example, in most instances, the use of an Em dash indicates that the first part of the sentence should be written in present tense while the use of a Hyphen indicates that the second part of the sentence should be in past tense. Following these simple rules will help ensure that your pages read well and are easy on the eyes. In addition, most people understand that the singular and plural forms of the word should be capitalized as well. Again, following this same logic will help ensure that your writing flows well and is easy to read.

Sometimes, many people do not see the need to capitalize the first or second place of a word in a sentence, especially if those words are hyphens. Capitalization of words that are hyphens is not only unnecessary but it also adds stress to the sentence. Using commas or hyphens to delimit groups of words helps readers understand the sentence as a whole and leaves less room for confusion. In the example above, “The dog eating the apple” is grammatically incorrect. It is much easier to write “the dog ate the apple” or “the dog ate the apple.”

Finally, when you are starting a new paragraph, it is acceptable to place a hyphen between words that are written or spoken. However, if you are changing a previously printed sentence or introducing a new idea, it is not recommended to include a hyphen as it can make the introduction seem disjointed. In fact, many writers choose to write each sentence with a capitalization of a word even if they intend to place the hyphen between the words. This practice is acceptable as long as it does not change the flow of the article and does not make the writer seem redundant.


In conclusion, the correct usage of hyphens in English grammar is very important. There are many instances where a hyphen can break the flow of a sentence and introduce confusion in the reader. Hyphens can be used for clarification, they can be used between words to indicate emphasis, and they may be used between words to show proximity (in the case of en dashes). They are frequently used in books to indicate who is the subject of a sentence and in editing to show that an adverb is placed after the noun. When used correctly, hyphens can help create sentences that are clear and precise and avoid the errors commonly made with hyphens.

There are several exceptions to the general rule that a hyphen must be used between words. For example, in some contexts it makes sense to capitalize en dashes. Also, many words may be written with one or two dashes and are not necessary to show emphasis. As well, when a question mark is added to the end of a question, it can serve to indicate that the questioner wants information without requiring the reader to re-read the beginning of the sentence to find the answer.