Hyphens and Special Characters

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The three types of dashes:

The hyphen (-)

The hyphen (-) is used for connecting the parts of a compound word. It is used between numbers and letters when naming compounds such as (2Z,6S)-deca-2-en-1,6-diol.

There are two special hyphens (same size as the regular hyphen) that can be used while you are formatting your document:

  1. The nonbreaking hyphen [Key combination: command+shift-] is used so that different parts of your expression are not on parts of a different line. For example, you might use a nonbreaking hyphen in the name (l)-sucrose acid so that the (l) does not end up on a different line from sucrose.
  2. The optional hyphen [Key combination: command-] is used in instances where you want to hyphenate a long word at the end of a line. These special hyphens will only show up at then end of a line. Therefore if you optionally hyphenate a word then later change the document forcing the whole word to the next line the hyphen will not show up when printing. You can change MSWord's view preferences to show optional hyphens.

The em dash (—)

The em dash (—) [Key combination: command+option+numpad- or shift+option-] is the longest dash. It occupies the same space as the letter "M". It is used where you would use two hyphens: Chemistry--Organic should be converted to Chemistry—Organic.

The en dash (–)

The en dash (–) [Key combination: command+numpad- or option-] takes up one-half of the letter "M". It is used for series and minus signs. For example:


Other special characters:

The degree symbol 120 °C [Key combination: option+shift+8]. Note the space after the number.

The bullet BH3•DMS [Key combination: option+8].

All the chacters listed can be inserted using MSWord's using the menu [Insert-->Insert special...]


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Last Updated: April 22, 2001
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