Skip to ContentSkip to Navigation
TalencentrumOnderdeel van Rijksuniversiteit Groningen


Express yourself <> understand the world
TalencentrumVertalen en corrigerenStyle GuidePunctuationHyphen


koppelteken, trait d'union, Bindestrich

The hyphen has several related uses and in every case it is used to show that what it is attached to does not make up a complete word by itself. Hyphens are mostly used to break single words into parts, or to join ordinarily separate words into single words. Spaces should not be placed between a hyphen and either of the words it connects except when using a suspended or ‘hanging’ hyphen (e.g. nineteenth- and twentieth-century writers). The main rules of thumb for using hyphens:

  1. Strive for clarity
  2. Don’t use a hyphen unless it’s necessary
  3. Where possible, follow established usage

Hyphens and compound modifiers

Use hyphens liberally here – they are often vital to comprehension. A light green dress is not the same as a light-green dress, a woman hating religion is not the same as a woman-hating religion, etc.

Some verbs need a hyphen to differentiate them from other verbs.
She recovered the sofa (i.e. got the sofa back) is not the same as she re-covered the sofa (she put a new cover on the sofa).

A definitive collection of hyphenation rules does not exist; rather, different manuals of style prescribe different usage guidelines. The rules of style that apply to dashes and hyphens have evolved to support ease of reading in complex constructions; editors often accept deviations from them that will support, rather than hinder, ease of reading. See Wikipedia for more information.


  • When in doubt, consult a good dictionary, preferably Collins, since more conservative dictionaries frequently show hyphens which are no longer in normal use.
  • Collins Gem Dictionary of English Spelling includes complete hyphenation guidance and is the book used by the UVC.
  • Never hyphenate at a point in a word where correct pronunciation would be compromised. Example: to follow.
  • Always turn of auto-hyphenation in Word! (Word 2003: - Tools » Language » Hyphenation; Word 2010: - Page Layout » Hyphenation)
Last modified:15 September 2017 9.00 p.m.