A hyphen - is used to join two or more words together into a compound term. There are no extra spaces.
*Consult a dictionary to see if your compound word uses a hyphen or is one word without a hyphen.
Hyphens are used when writing out double-digit numbers or fractions.
Put hyphens between the letters of a word using hyphens to indicate that a word is spelled out letter-by-letter.
The prefixes all, ex, and self should be joined to words using a hyphen. Suffixes such as elect should also be attached using hyphens.
You can also use hyphens to connect prefixes such as un and pre to capitalized words.
Hyphens can be used to indicate a hesitation or stammer.
Hyphens help clarify the meaning of words.
A dash is used to separate words into statements.
The en dash which is twice as long as a hyphen which is used to indicate a range or connection. There are no spaces around an en dash.
The em dash is even longer and is used in place of a comma, parenthesis, or colon for emphasis. Most of the time you will see a space before and after this dash.
Brackets/parentheses are also used in academic writing to separate citations from the rest of the text. Check out our citation page for more information.
Here's an example of an intext citation in MLA style.
Parentheses () are used around nonessential information or abrupt changes in thought. Extra text that is separated out like this is called parenthetical text.
*In formal academic writing, don't overuse parentheses and check to see if they are essential. Oftentimes the information could be in a separate sentence or included with commas or semicolons.
When the words in parentheses form a complete sentence, place a period inside the closing parenthesis.
When the words in parentheses are not a complete sentence, place the period outside the closing parenthesis.
Always place commas, semicolons, and colons outside the closing parenthesis.
If the information in parentheses has a question mark or an exclamation mark, use the punctuation mark inside the parentheses only if the sentence ends with a different mark.
Use parentheses to clarify preceding words.
Use parentheses for references or documentation of sources.
Use parentheses around an abbreviation or an acronym when it is used with the spelled–out word.
Use parentheses in a horizontal list of items that uses either letters or numbers.
Use parentheses around numerals used with a spelled–out number.
Square brackets [ ] indicate where you have inserted words within a quotation so that it makes more sense.
The ellipsis (...) indicates where words are removed from the original quotation. It has space before and after the three dots.