Hyphens and Apostrophe
A hyphen joins two or more words together while a dash separates words into parenthetical statements. The two are sometimes confused because they look so similar, but their usage is different. Hyphens are not separated by spaces, while a dash has a space on either side.
Generally, hyphens are used to join two words or parts of words together while avoiding confusion or ambiguity. Consult your dictionary if you are not sure if a hyphen is required in a compound word, but remember that current usage may have shifted since your dictionary was published.
There are some cases where hyphens preserve written clarity such as where there are letter collisions, where a prefix is added, or in family relations. Many words that have been hyphenated in the past have since dropped the hyphen and become a single word (email, nowadays).
In some cases though, a hyphen does change the meaning of a sentence.
I am thinking of re-covering my sofa (= to put a new cover on it)
I would like to recover my sofa. (= from someone who has borrowed or stolen it)
Hyphens in numbers
Use a hyphen with compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine.
In written fractions place a hyphen between the numerator and denominator except if there is already a hyphen in either the numerator or the denominator.
Use a hyphen when a number forms part of an adjectival compound
France has a 35-hour working week.
He won the 100-metre sprint.
Charles Dickens was a great nineteenth-century novelist.
The apostrophe probably causes more grief than all of the other punctuation marks put together! The problem nearly always seems to stem from not understanding that the apostrophe has two very different (and very important) uses in English: possession and contractions.
The apostrophe in contractions
The most common use of apostrophes in English is for contractions, where a noun or pronoun and a verb combine. Remember that the apostrophe is often replacing a letter that has been dropped. It is placed where the missing letter would be in that case.
|Using “not”||is not, has not, had not, did not, would not, can not||isn’t, hasn’t, hadn’t, didn’t, wouldn’t, can’t|
|Using “is”||she is, there is, he is, it is, Mary is, Jim is, Germany is, who is||she’s, there’s, he’s, it’s, Mary’s, Jim’s, Germany’s, who’s|
|Using “am”||I am||I’m|
|Using “will”||I will, you will, she will, we will, they will||I’ll, you’ll, she’ll, we’ll, they’ll|
|Using “would”||I would, you would, he would, we would, they would||I’d, you’d, he’d, we’d, they’d|
|Using “have”||I have, you have, we have, they have||I’ve, you’ve, we’ve, they’ve|
|Using “are”||you are, they are, we are||you’re, they’re, we’re|
People, even native English speakers, often mistake its and it’s, you’re and your, who’s and whose, and they’re, their and there. See below for the difference.
It’s a nice day outside. (contraction)
The cat is dirty. Its fur is matted. (possession)
You’re not supposed to be here. (contraction)
This is your book. (possession)
Who’s at the door? (contraction)
Whose shoes are these? (possession)
They’re not here yet. (contraction)
Their car is red. (possession)
His car is over there. (location)
The possessive apostrophe
In most cases you simply need to add ‘s to a noun to show possession
a ship’s captain
a doctor’s patient
a car’s engine
Plural nouns that do not end in s also follow this rule:
the children’s room
the men’s work
the women’s club
Ordinary (or common) nouns that end in s, both singular and plural, show possession simply by adding an apostrophe after the s.
the bus’ wheel
the babies’ crying
the ladies’ tennis club
the teachers’ journal
Proper nouns (names of people, cities, countries) that end in s can form the possessive either by adding the apostrophe + s or simply adding the apostrophe. Today both forms are considered correct (Jones’s or Jones’), and many large organisations now drop the apostrophe completely (e.g. Barclays Bank, Missing Persons Bureau) when publishing their name.
The Hughes’ home (or the Hughes’s home)
Mr Jones’s shop (or Mr Jones’ shop)
Charles’ book (or Charles’s book)