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Punctuation Series: How to Edit Hyphens


This is the last segment on exploring how to edit punctuation in the Dash Family. Next month, I will have yet another easy, effective article for how to edit other useful punctuation so that your manuscript shines like a brand new car. That should wow the agent or editor, right? So without further ado, let’s dive in!

In the world of grammar and punctuation, there are three types of dash (hyphen, en dash, and em dash). “So what?” you say. “Ah,” but I say, “presentation is everything, especially when it comes to the publishing world. And your presentation of such a small thing as a dash is crucial to your book’s success.” It’s one of the ways that separates a professional book from an amateur book. Editors—and readers—know when the punctuation is off, which *could throw your story off too. And we wouldn’t want that!

Working with the dash can be tricky, boring, and downright distressing at times. As a writer and an editor, I completely understand your frustration with grammar and punctuation altogether.

And it may seem like the dash is not important, but they are, especially if you use a lot of extra information in your prose or poetry. And that’s nearly every piece of writing, so I invite you to stay for this little journey. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but merely to give you a tool to use in your self-editing journey, should you choose to do so.

Why Paying Attention to the Dash Is Important

  • Appearance is everything, appearance is everything, appearance . . . yeah
  • The difference is subtle, like missing the road sign on the highway
  • Using the dash correctly shows you care about your story, your editor, and your readers

In this blog post, let’s look at one of the dashes, the hyphen. The plain and simple hyphen. And my text for today is The Chicago Manual of Style, chapter six.

The hyphen is part of the Dash Family, which you can read about em dashes and en dashes here.

Let’s differentiate the hyphen and the dashes, as I’m sure it gets confusing. I know you’d rather not focus on them at all, but it’s super easy once you have the tools! (Chicago Manual of Style 6.75).

  • Hyphen is one little tic: –
  • En dash is two little tics –
  • Em dash is three little tics —
  • *But you can find the dashes in the Symbols box in the Home ribbon (for PC users).
    Don’t make the mistake and insert two hyphens (–) for the en dash and three hyphens for the em dash (—). It. Does. Not. Work. That. Way. 😊 If you want to know how, then finish reading this blog post and head on over the other two articles that talk about how to find and insert the en and em dashes . . . you’ll be glad you did!

Use hyphens with compound words. (Chicago Manual of Style 6.76).

  • Chicago 5.92 uses these hyphenated compound words and calls them phrasal adjectives.
  • Yep, this is where grammar tips collide with other grammar tips! So that means
  • Two hyphenated adjectives before a noun to describe it.
  • Like, yellow-bellied toads, slick-sliver rats, purple-tongued snakes. . .

A few rules about using phrasal adjectives . . .

  1. If the phrase comes before the noun, then hyphenate the words to avoid misreading or misunderstanding. Clarity is key!
  2. If the phrase is connected to a compound noun, then the entire phrase is hyphenated, such as chocolate-coffee-infused writers. This makes the relationship between the words clear, not to mention that commas would not work between the words at all.
  3. If there are more than one phrasal adjectives that describes the noun, then each phrasal adjective needs to be hyphenated because each element is super important: twentieth-century historical-element writingstate-inspected assisted-living home.
  4. For two phrasal adjectives that share the same noun, each phrase needs a hyphen between, showing that both phrases are related to the same noun. For instance, middle- and upper-classmen students (middle-classmen and upper-classmen); lower- and upper-elementary readers (lower-elementary and upper-elementary).
  5. If the phrasal adjective includes reference to amount or duration, then don’t use the plural. For example, toddler stage is about two years, but for the phrasal adjective, two-year toddler stage. Or a bookstore that is open 24 hours a day would have a 24-hour-day schedule.
  6. Have a confusing phrasal adjective? Don’t fret—just rewrite the sentence! There’s no pressure or misunderstanding or going round the Merry-Go-Round when you simply rewrite the sentence. And it might even sound better too!

Exceptions, exceptions, exceptions! (Chicago Manual of Style 5.93).

If the phrasal adjective is after a linking verb, then the phrase is *not hyphenated because then that phrasal adjective is acting as a noun.

  • The athlete is well trained.
  • My writers’ group is a mix and match of genres and skills.

If the phrasal adjective begins with a Proper adjective, do not hyphenate!

  • Glouster Beach goers.
  • Clinton Anderson horse trainers.

If the two-word phrasal adjective includes an adverb, don’t use a hyphen.

  • A timely appointed meeting.
  • A roughly made coffee table.

Use Hyphens as Separators (Chicago Manual of Style 6.77).

  • Separate numbers that are not inclusive. Telephone numbers, social security numbers, or ISBNs.
  • Separate words and spelling out words.

    This is also helpful when your character is dictating over the phone. Or with spelling out words if a character uses American Sign Language.

    For example,

  • Your number is 123-555-4321
  • Tomorrow we hike Mountain R-a-n-i-e-r. (American Sign Language fingerspelling.)
  • My name is Tisha, that’s Tisha with an i, no r. Spelled T-i-s-h-a.

How’s that for a very brief introductory into using the hyphen that’s widely used but so often tricky to use?

Using the well-placed hyphen is important because your overall presentation makes a world of difference to your editor, agent, publisher, and readers. That may seem counterintuitive because the writing is equally important, but it’s the presentation that tends to enhance your credibility as a writer. (Especially if you self-publish and are doing your own first-draft editing.)

Pro Tip : I’m creating a few cheat sheets and a video series on some of the topics I’ve covered so far, and if you’d like to be in the loop for when they’ll be ready, just go to my website and email me, letting me know you’d like to be added to my Grammar List!! I look forward to seeing you!

Please take a minute and join in the discussion! I’d love to hear from you!

Conversation Time!!

Of the three Dash articles, which has been your favorite, and why? Let me know in the Comments!

(If you haven’t read the other two articles, go read them!! You might find them useful. Click here.)

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The Publishing Dictionary

(first published in 2018)

Next to owning The Christian Writer’s Manual of Style and The Chicago Manual of Style, all people (who have even a small part) in the publishing industry need to own

The Publishing Dictionary by Mary Hollingsworth.

Any writer, agent, editor, publisher, and anyone in between, will tell you that when they attended their first conference, started writing or editing or learning about the publishing industry, they hadn’t the foggiest idea what copyedit, point of view, on spec, characterization, dangling modifier, types of layout, book proposal, etc. meant. Mary’s here to offer a dictionary to those who need a hands-on reference guide.

If you’re to work with small publishers or large publishers, you’ll need to know what deal points are. Is a reader really one who purchases and reads your book? A signature is more than your scrawl across a page.

While I’ve not personally met Mary Hollingsworth, author of this helpful resource dictionary, I have spoken with her over the phone, and I’ve just gotta tell you—she’s one of the most welcoming, helpful, and knowledgeable people I know.

Mary’s celebrating 35 years of servant leadership in the publishing industry. Congratulations, Mary! Thank you for all you’ve done for our industry, for those you’ve guided, mentored, and served in this wonderful publishing industry.

Be informed. This book fits alongside your laptop! To purchase a copy of this treasure trove of a dictionary, go to Amazon. It will be the most profitable $11.99 you’ve ever spent!

Plus, what’s not to love about quotes like this:

“When I get a little money, I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes.”


106329777811101CDP - Version 2 – Version 3About Mary Hollingsworth

Mary Hollingsworth is celebrating her thirty-fourth year in Christian publishing. She is author of more than one hundred ten Christian books, which have appeared on bestseller lists more than one hundred times. Three of her books have sold more than one million copies each. Total sales of her books now approach 8 million copies.

One of Mary’s bestsellers, Hugs for Women, was a finalist for the Christian Booksellers Association Inspirational Gift Book of the Year award. Her children’s book Polka Dots, Stripes, Humps ‘n’ Hatracks received the C. S. Lewis All-Time Top Ten Favorites award. She has also won several literary awards, including Howard Books/Simon & Schuster’s Spiritual Development Award, the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association Gold Book Award (twice), and the ECPA Platinum Book Award (twice). In April 2018 she received the Global Media Summit’s Platinum Award for Excellence in Communication.

Mary currently serves as president and publisher of Creative Enterprises Studio, hosting two hundred of Christian publishing’s top editorial and marketing freelancers. Through CES these freelancers work on books for major publishers, such as HarperCollins, Thomas Nelson, Zondervan, Harvest House, and many independent authors, companies, and ministries. They work regularly with such bestselling authors as Max Lucado, Tony Evans, Sheila Walsh, Rick Warren, Candace Cameron Bure, John MacArthur, and many others.

Mary holds a Bachelor of Science in business education degree from Abilene Christian University, with minor equivalents in Bible and journalism. Her master’s work is in mass media from Texas A&M Commerce.

For a more complete review of Mary’s career, see

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Open to Authors: Christmas in July 2018

Christmas in July

I’m doing a huge Christmas in July #giveaway extravaganza, with

  • indie and traditionally published historical/romance book giveaways,
  • What It Was Like During Christmas in WWI and WWII blog posts,
  • and other fun #giveaway prizes.

If you’re an #author and have a clean historical or historical romance book or ebook that you’d like to contribute to this Christmas in July celebration, please

Click here —> Contact Tisha and put “Christmas in July” in the subject line.

**Books will be reviewed and accepted until June 18, 2018. If you contact me after that date, it’s too late.** 

#readers, you won’t want to miss out! Check the blog every Friday in July for great giveaway books, historical blog posts about what Christmas was like during WWI and WWII, and other historical goodies!

Looking forward to the celebration!

Giveaway Details:

  • Will feature up to 8 books on two Fridays in July.

  • No purchase necessary for entrants to win. Not affiliated with Facebook or any social media site. Giveaway is hosted by

  • Entrants must be 18 or older and have lower 48-state U.S. address to receive hard copies and prize packs.

  • Entrants must be 18 or older and live outside of the lower 48 U.S. states to receive e-book prizes.