That’s so extra

The word extra is, well, extra. As an adjective, adverb, noun and prefix, it serves many functions. It’s having its moment right now as an adjective in phrases such as, “That’s so extra.” And its many meanings are a good reminder as to why punctuation matters.

A screenshot of a message from Stylebot on Slack that reads: "Extra" is an adjective, adverb, noun and prefix. As a prefix, it means outside or beyond. When you're using it that way, you generally do not need a hyphen, unless the following word begins with another vowel: "They accused the government of carrying out extrajudicial punishments." When you're using it to mean additional or excessive, you don't need a hyphen unless you're using it as a compound modifier: "She thought she deserved extra credit for her extra-large drawing."

Take the phrase “extra large shirt.” If you have an “extra large shirt,” you have an additional shirt that is a size large. If you have an “extra-large shirt,” though, you have one shirt that is size extra large. There is not one definitive set of rules for using hyphens, but they are often needed for clarity.

A space, or lack thereof, can be just as important. “Extraordinary” and “extra ordinary,” for example, have opposite meanings. In “extraordinary,” “extra” is serving as a prefix that means outside or beyond. So “extraordinary” means beyond ordinary or exceptional. “Extra ordinary,” meanwhile, means very ordinary.

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