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May 09, 2013

Punctuation Junction: Hyphens, En Dashes, and Slashes

Chelsea blog 2



by Chelsea Lee

Punctuation Junction: A series about what happens when punctuation marks collide.

The hyphen (-), en dash (–), and forward slash (/) are three punctuation marks used to indicate a relationship between words or phrases. Respectively, each mark indicates an increasing level of connection between words. The guidelines below illustrate ways to use these marks effectively, both alone and in combination.

Rolling road

1. Use a hyphen to indicate a temporary, unidirectional relationship between words that without the hyphen might be misread.

  • Correct: The low-anxiety group outperformed the high-anxiety group in the number of items they recalled from the to-be-remembered list.
  • Incorrect: The low anxiety group outperformed the high anxiety group in number of items they recalled from the to be remembered list.

2. Use an en dash to indicate an equal or bidirectional relationship between words or phrases.

  • Correct: The researcher examined the measure’s test–retest reliability.
  • Incorrect: The researcher examined the measure’s test/retest reliability.
  • Incorrect: The researcher examined the measure’s test-retest reliability.

3. Use a slash to clarify a relationship in which a hyphenated compound is used. Otherwise, use a hyphen, en dash, or phrase to show the relationship.

  • Correct: The hits/false-alarms comparison did not yield significant results, indicating the presence of a methodological error, a ceiling effect, or both.
  • Incorrect: The hits-false-alarms comparison did not yield significant results, indicating a methodological error and/or a ceiling effect.

For more on how these punctuation marks are used, see Publication Manual §4.11 and §4.13. Keep an eye out for more Punctuation Junction posts coming soon!


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