Can email addresses have hyphens, minus signs and dashes?

As you develop your email marketing campaign, you may wonder how to remove invalid email addresses from your list and lower your bounce rate. Hyphens, minus signs, and dashes create plenty of confusion when it comes to syntax, so this article addresses some of the grey areas to help you achieve your email marketing goals.

In this article we aim to answer the question: can email addresses have hyphens, minus signs, and dashes?

Syntax Basics

Before we continue, let's back up and cover some basic syntax rules, to define the terminology we'll refer to in the rest of the article. Every email address has two main parts: the local part, (before the @ symbol), and the domain part (after the @ symbol).

But wait - aren't hyphens, minus signs, dashes all just different terms for the same thing? This is more complex than you'd expect. Under what's called Unicode, each character has its own unique code. However, ASCII (American Standard for Information Interchange) is the standard for encoding email addresses and considers these characters interchangeable.

Can email addresses have hyphens, minus signs, and dashes?

The short answer is yes, email addresses can include these characters, but with some exceptions. The two biggest factors to consider are hyphen placement and email service provider. Let’s look at each in a bit more detail.

Placement - email addresses cannot have a hyphen (or minus sign, or dash) as the first or last letter in the domain part. Similarly, the hyphen cannot be placed directly in front of or following, the dot (.). Have a look at some examples of correct vs. incorrect use:


Email service provider (ESP) - based on RFC standards, email addresses can technically have hyphens and other special characters in the local part. However, many ESPs enforce restrictions against them.

Gmail and Yahoo! are two examples of popular providers that prevent users from including hyphens in their email addresses. Keep in mind that many other providers allow hyphens; it varies from case to case.

How to check email address syntax?

Automation is key. While understanding accurate syntax can help your marketing campaign, we don’t recommend trying to manually verify every email address on your list. Not only is the process tedious, but you may get bogged down in ambiguity, due to varying procedures from one ESP to another.

Not to mention, syntax is just one of many validity issues you likely face. Manual validation can’t protect against more complex problems, like spam traps and SMTP.

There’s a better way to validate your email list: at Verifalia we provide an advanced email validation software that checks each address for a whole spectrum of issues, from faulty syntax to spam traps and everything in between. We also offer API so you can validate email addresses at the point of collection.

We offer convenient, reliable, cloud-based tools to clean your email list, even if you’re just getting started with email marketing. Feel free to try our demo or sign up for the free plan to see for yourself how easy it is to use.

Our innovative email address validation service can detect email addresses with incorrect hyphen, minus sign, or dash use, and other validity issues, so you can focus on email marketing.

Ready to start validating? Register for Verifalia now.

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