Dashes and hyphens
There are three commonly-used dashes, which are distinguishable by their length:
- The hyphen: -
- The en dash: –
- The em dash: —
The em dash should not be used.
The en dash should be used in place of brackets or commas to add supplementary information to a sentence. It should be surrounded by spaces.
- The Royal School of Mines – which became part of Imperial College London in 1907 – was established in 1851.
The en dash should also be used for years, to join terms of equal weight, or to represent a pause in the text.
- 2015–16 academic year
- Myers–Briggs profile
- In May 1851 Hyde Park hosted The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of all Nations (or ‘The Great Exhibition’) – the first event of its kind in the world.
Avoid using the slash in prose, such as ‘he/she’ or ‘from/to’ and instead rewrite the text to render it unnecessary. For example:
- Departments will also look at your son/daughter’s interest in their subject.
- Departments will also look at your child’s interest in their subject.
A hyphen should be used to join two word adjectives together, and for some words beginning with prefixes such as co, de, pre or re.
- First-year students
- Third- and fourth-year students
- 19th-century history
Find out more
Check the spelling section for the preferred spelling of many commonly hyphenated words.