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Punctuation and Grammar Tips Head




Hints and Tips for Proper Punctuation and Grammar

If there is any one area that can quickly undo all the hard work and time you spent spacing and adjusting copy, making you look like an amateur, it is the improper use of punctuation and grammar. These KernProse hints and tips for proper punctuation and grammar are designed to be a resource that you can refer to when you have a question about when and where certain punctuation is to be used.

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As an oversimplified, general rule, use the hyphen as a connector; use the en dash in place of “to”; use the em dash to separate related thoughts, as you would with a colon or ellipses.
HYPHEN Probably the most often used, and therefore the most often misused. Also misused because it has to serve for more than one character on the typewriter (since most have no en dashes, and some no dashes at all).
Use the hyphen to…
  • Join two or more words used as one adjective or adverb:
    • a tried-and-true eggbeater • working after-hours
    • a two-page letter
  • Join two or more words used as one verb:
    • to fine-tune • to double-click • to dry-clean •to second-guess
  • Join two or more words used as one noun
    • father-in-law • go-between • runner-up • time-out • two-by-four
  • Separate units in serialized numbers such as phone number, invoices, zip codes, SS #'s, etc:
    • model G-01234 • invoice # ABC-12345 • 630-697-2501
  • Express numbers as words:
    • twenty-one • twenty-one hundred • one twenty-one hundredth
  • Express fractions as words:
    • one-quarter of a pound [BUT: a quarter pound of butter]
    • one-half hour [BUT: a half hour, half an hour]
  • To set off prefixes or suffixes:
    • Actually, this should generally not be done [overconfident, coauthor, reorganize, subdivision, nationwide, pseudoscientific, midstream, nonindustrial]. However, there are exceptions:
    a hyphen normally follows “mid” in expressions involving numbers
    if three ll’s occur in succession, a hyphen should be used
    [shell-less, bell-like].
    when truly necessary, a hyphen should be used to prevent one word
    from being mistaken for another [lock the coop / buy a co-op, multiply
    by 12 / a multi-ply fabric, a unionized factory / an un-ionized substance].
    as a rule, when adding a prefix to a hyphenated or spaced
    compound word, use a hyphen after the prefix [pre-high school years,
    post-bread-winning years, ex-attorney general, non-interest-bearing
    notes, non-civil service position].
    when the prefix ends with “a” or “i” and the base word begins with the
    same letter, use a hyphen to prevent misreading: [ultra-attractive,
    anti-intellectual, semi-independent]. (Note: just the opposite is true
    for “e” and “o”: coordinate, preeminent, cooperate, reelect).
    use a hyphen after “self” when it serves as a prefix, but not when
    it’s actually the base word itself, followed by a suffix: [self-confidence,
    self-destruct, self-help (BUT: selfish, selfless, selfsame)]

The en dash is created by using the Option-shift-hyphen

  • Use in place of the word “to” in order to link two figures that represent a continuous sequence:
    • On pages 12–14 • during the week of March 22–28 • 1921–1927
EM DASH The em dash is created by using the CMD-Option-shift-hyphen
  • Use to set off a phrase within a sentance:
    • Many of the components—for example, the motor—are manufactured here.
  • Use as an alternative to other punctuation, such as comma, colon, semicolon, or even parenthesis—especially if you’ve used others already or you want stronger emphasis.
    • I do the work—he gets the credit!