Intern’s Corner: Grammar Refresher and Essentials Tutorial: Dashes and Hyphens

Dashes are known as the “super comma” and hyphens are used as a compound modifier and for other uses as well, such as prefixes, suffixes, nouns, letters, and numbers, and clarifying the meaning of words. The OWL provides examples of the purposes of dashes and hyphens but warns against overusing them. The best way to know how to use a dash or hyphen is to go onto the OWLs Grammar Refresher and Grammar Essentials for dashes and hyphens.


Grammar Refresher: Dashes & Hyphens


The first tutorial I will showcase here is the Grammar Refresher: Dashes and Hyphens. This tutorial provides everything a grammar enthusiast would expect from the Online Writing Lab. There are practice questions, instructional content, and even a quiz to test your knowledge. The tutorial also provides the grammar rules to follow and how to avoid overuse.

The OWL provides several rules one must follow when utilizing the dash. The first rule is as follows:

Screenshot of Grammar Refresher: Dashes and Hyphens tutorial regarding rules of using dashes and how they differ from hyphens.

The second rule is appositive (a noun phrase that renames or identifies a noun or noun phrase right next to it). We talked about appositives in the colon blog.

The OWL then goes into dashes and discusses how they are different than hyphens in how they are created and how they look.



The OWL also explains how hyphens are used to link compound modifiers, which act as adjectives or adverbs. Take a look at these examples and notice how the same words are not hyphenated if they are present after the noun.

Finally, the OWL warns users that MLA and APA might have varying ideas of how to use the hyphen, so check out the manual if you are unsure.


Grammar Essentials: Dashes

There is another page the OWL offers called Grammar Essentials: Dashes. This page provides a quick snapshot of essential information seen in the Grammar Refresher tutorial.


Grammar Essentials: 20 Most Common Grammar Errors

The Grammar Essentials: 20 Most Common Grammar Errors: Hyphens Is another quick refresher regarding hyphens with engaging examples that will make you chuckle.


Grammar Essentials: Hyphens

The OWL provides a little more depth in their Grammar Essentials: Hyphens page, where they offer an interactive tutorial called Try It Out, which will take you on a little getaway.

Screenshot from Grammar Essentials: Hyphens tutorial regarding practical application.


Final Thoughts

All the helpful information you need to increase your knowledge and your chances of making the right choice when using dashes or hyphens are found within this and every other tutorial the OWL offers. Check out the other Grammar Essentials or Grammar Refresher tutorials for more helpful tutorials regarding grammar usage.


Ginger Hamblin is an intern for the Excelsior University Online Writing Lab. She has been a student of Excelsior University for almost two years and is pursuing her Bachelor of Science – Liberal Arts in Professional and Technical Writing. She is a writing enthusiast, painter, wife, and mother of three boys.