Hyphens (Not Dashes) between WordsThose "dashes between words" are usually hyphens between words.
This page is about hyphens between words. (Hyphens are shorter than dashes.)
Read more about dashes.
Hyphens are most often used to join words to show they are a single entity (e.g., water-bottle, cooking-oil, free-range eggs, four-page document). They can also be used as a separator within a word for clarity (e.g., re-press) or readability (e.g., re-establish).
Examples of Using Hyphens between WordsListed below are the main uses of hyphens:
(1) To form a compound noun.
- Being married means I can eat ice-cream in bed. (Brad Pitt)
- Pass me the plastic wire-fastener.
(2) To form a compound adjective.
- It's only a three-seater aircraft.
- It will be a never-to-be-forgotten experience.
- They had a twenty-year-old cat.
(3) To remove ambiguity with adjectives.
- It is a heavy-metal detector. (The hyphen makes it clear the device detects heavy metals as opposed to being a heavy device.)
- It is a broken-heart pendant. (The hyphen makes it clear the pendant is of a broken heart as opposed to being a broken pendant.)
- He is the best-known actor. (The hyphen makes it clear he is not the best actor of the known actors.)
- There are more-important things in life. (The hyphen makes it clear that more modifies important and not things.)
- She is an extremely-happy dog.
- She is a very-happy dog.
- The winner typically cheese-chases at 20 mph.
- He needed to gate-vault the obstacle.
- James spent the evening in hospital after he happy-slapped a bystander, who turned out to be a champion boxer.
- This issue is a real no-brainer.
- three hundred and twenty-four
(8) When writing fractions in full.
Hyphens are not meant to be used for ranges (e.g., 12-14, 2001- 2010). Dashes are used for this purpose. However, given that the hyphen is so easy to find on a keyboard, hyphens have become acceptable for ranges. Only a very strict grammar pedant would pull you up for using hyphens. If this were to happen, you could make a good case for the pedant being out of date.
Read about dashes between numbers.