Publishing Tip: using dashes and hyphens

When to use a dash or a hyphen seems to be the best kept publishing secret if most of the manuscripts and documents I receive across my desk for editing or proofreading are anything to go by.

When to use a dash or a hyphen

The following information is an extract from the Bold Type Style Manual which is based on Australian publishing standards from the Style Manual (previously the AGSM).

Using the Dash or En rule

The dash or en rule (–), which is a longer version of the hyphen (-), is used for sentences, headings, spans of numbers, second level hanging indent lists, and between words that are connected but distinct from each other.

If there is one word or group of numbers on either side of the dash, no spaces are used. If more than one word, use a space on either side.

When to use the dash without spacing

Australian–French negotiations      April–June         Asia–Pacific

work–life          1998–99            1999–2004       2002–06

pp. 65–9              35–50K

When to use the dash with spacing

Paris – the city of light                  15 August – 16 August

20 000 – 50 000                            $60 000 – $100 000

I have worked in many different areas – public relations, promotions, publishing and online content development – and have enjoyed the diversity of the work.

The Em rule which is an even longer dash (—) than the en dash (–) is used in some publications. However, at Bold Type, for consistency of style, we tend to use the en dash.

Where to find the dash or en rule on your computer keyboard

For a Mac, use (key Option <hyphen>.

For a PC, use Ctrl <minus> Windows, creates –).

When to use the hyphens

The hyphen (-) is used to join two parts of a word to make a new word. Hyphens (-) are used for compound nouns, adjectives or adjectival phrases, when two words or more form another word. Some prefixes also take hyphens.

Some examples of when to use the hyphen

all-rounder          blue-collar          cut-off mark        full-scale

in-line     left-hand side      no-one               under-supply

well-paid job      X-ray

Do not hyphenate noun or verb phrases, such as ‘in the long term’, or ‘kept up to date’. These terms take hyphens only when used adjectivally, such as ‘a long-term solution’ or ‘an up-to-date outfit’.

When no hyphen is required

eyewitness          landmass            worldwide          lowdown

coordinate          paralegal            timeline             makeup

download           biodiversity        bushwalking       formwork

online                onsite                well paid       backpacker

coworker        workload

Still in doubt, check the Macquarie Dictionary: the preferred dictionary for Australian publishing.

This publishing tip brought to you by freelance Sydney editor, Susie Stevens from Bold Type.

Looking for a professional editor or proofreader? Call Susie on 0410 037 635 or email Susie today for a free quote.

Read more publishing tips from Susie Stevens, Freelance Editor, Sydney