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Punctuation lightning guide

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Hyphen-

Links words and word fragments, and creates compound nouns and adjectives.

No spaces either side.

WordsWord fragments
Full-time jobEx-president
High-quality serviceUn-Australian
2-hour flight 
Two-thirds 

See Web writing and style guide 11.5.2.

En dash–

Shows a range (e.g. dates or times) or a relationship between independent nouns.

No spaces either side.

RangesRelationships
See pages 213–224.Mother–daughter relationship
It's a 9–5 job.Hand–eye coordination
The March–July periodAsia–Pacific region

See Web writing and style guide 11.5.3.

Em dash—

Use to: amplify or explain, show an abrupt change, or set a phrase apart within a sentence (like brackets).

No spaces either side.

ExplainAbrupt changeSet phrase apart
It relates to the sports I played—soccer, cricket, volleyball, and rugby.I have a meeting at 1pm—the details are unimportant.Transfer duty—formerly known as stamp duty—is payable online.

See Web writing and style guide 11.5.4.

Colon:

Introduces more information, such as a list or definition.

No capital afterwards except in subtitles (bulleted lists may differ).

ListDefinition
Your options include:
  • work alone
  • work in a small team
  • work in a large team.
There was only one thing I wanted from my work: to change the world.
We provide benefits for employees: free breakfast, a weekly massage and drinks on Fridays. 

See Web writing and style guide 11.3.

Semicolon;

Connects related clauses that would be abrupt if made into separate sentences.

Punctuates run-on lists where the list items have internal punctuation.

Related clausesRun-on lists
The ride lurched up and down; I felt sick.Agriculture and Fisheries; Science, Information Technology and Innovation; and Treasury are government departments.

See Web writing and style guide 11.6.

Colon vs dash

Both serve to introduce a related element but a dash is stronger (and more informal) than a colon.

A colon informs readers that something more is coming: the words that follow define or clarify what came before the colon.

A dash also introduces extra material but, because it interrupts the flow of the sentence, it’s a more dramatic way of telling the reader to get ready—something important is coming.