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.
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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