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SPAG: Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: Hyphens, Dashes, and Exclamation points

Tips to improve and correct common errors in academic and formal writing.

Exclamation points

More about exclamation points

Exclamation points should be used sparingly.

Otherwise they lose their punch and look juvenile.

This rule applies to formal writing. In ads, emails, or Facebook posts, use all the exclamation points you please!

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More about hyphens

A hyphen is the short mark used to join two words.

Hyphenation can change or clarify meaning.

Hyphenate ages used as modifiers (a five-year-old child) and similar modifiers (a first-rate product).


Which would you rather drive?

a little used car


a little-used car

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More about dashes

A dash is the long mark that signals an abrupt break in thought.

It should be used only occasionally in formal writing, but it's more common that the exclamation point.

A pair of dashes—or one of the other would end or begin the sentence—sets off a thought like a pair of commas or parentheses.

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