​Has anybody ever heard of the swung dash? Friends tell me that this is being used by writers in lieu of the dash. See examples below. Has anybody ever seen this usage? If so, is it new?

You are the friend ~ the only friend ~ who offered to help me.

Never have I met such a lovely person ~ before you.

I pay the bills ~ she has all the fun.

I need three items at the store ~ dog food, vegetarian chili, and cheddar cheese.

My agreement with Fiona is clear ~ she teaches me French and I teach her German.

Please call my agent ~ Jessica Cohen ~ about hiring me.

I wish you would ~ oh, never mind.

Two oaks ~ Cassidy had never seen such amazing trees ~ provided shade to the backyard.

Levi wondered how anyone could live like that ~ and why.

John ~ blood dripping from his nose ~ stepped into the room.

I scrubbed the dog ~ and what a chore it was! ~ only to have the cat arrive covered in mud.

When I picked up Karen ~ oh my gosh ~ I was stunned by her beauty.

I fell ~ oh no! ~ all the way to the ground.

I chased his car ~ was it his? ~ all the way to town.

Cars built in Europe ~ particularly in Germany ~ are stylish and sporty.

Are you sure" ~ you lying jerk ~ "that you didn't take my car?"

He has only one thing on his mind ~ girls!

Only one person is qualified for this job ~ you.

Thank you.

  • 4
    I have never seen this usage in print. It seems to be a repurposing of the tilde, perhaps born of the internet's desire for a 'fancy' hyphen. – Anonym Feb 24 '14 at 3:27
  • Would you ~ or anyone else out there ~ ever use it in writing? Aesthetically, it looks beautiful. I think I've fallen in love with it. :-) – whippoorwill Feb 24 '14 at 3:35
  • @whippoorwill How you write your text is up to you, but I see no advantage in adopting this punctuation variant. If you really want cute, wavy writing, use a cute, wavy font. – Pitarou Feb 24 '14 at 3:59
  • 1
    The SWUNG DASH character is Unicode code point U+2053, which is the “⁓” character. If you think that looks different from a regular TILDE “~” at U+007E, more power to ya. There are other tildes, but only U+2053 has the “Dash” character property. However, there are also the WAVE DASH at U+301C which is a “〜”, and the WAVY DASH at U+3030 which is a “〰”. I kid you not. Those also have the Dash character property. – tchrist Feb 24 '14 at 5:59
  • @tchrist whether and how much U+2053 looks different to U+007E depends on the font. Some fonts have ~ up high, looking much like ̃ , that is like a combining tilde over a space for which use it was originally used in ASCII (e.g. n followed by backspace followed by ~ as a way to print out ñ). In such fonts it's quite close to ˜ which is explicitly smaller and a spacing modifying symbol. – Jon Hanna Feb 24 '14 at 10:06

The swung dash is most often used to omit something obvious from context for the sake of space. A common use as such is in dictionaries where it can stand for the word currently being defined, though it can also be used as a more general "ditto" mark, to mark information that is omitted or unavailable in transcribing a damaged text, and so on.

As pointed out in another answer, Japanese uses wave dashes (〜) in ways that are analogous to some uses of other dashes in English, such as how the en-dash (–) is used for ranges (1m-2m in English, 1m〜2m in Japanese) and this particular case can sometimes be seen on specification labels on equipment as it stands out a bit more.

That said, it isn't used so much for parenthetical uses of the dash, and the wave dash (〜) is not the same as the swung dash (⁓), so this seems doubtful, though not impossible; borrowings from other cultures and languages aren't always faithful to the source, and certainly uses of punctuation in one language has influenced its use in English whether as a widespread use (e.g. the apostrophe comes from French use, and is now fully a part of English punctuation including in many cases where it does not match French use) or more restricted to a particular community (e.g. the fondness many early-mid 20th Century modernist writers in English, particularly Joyce who insisted adamantly upon them, of the use of em-dashes as speech markers owed a lot to French use—no doubt at least partly related to the number of said writers who lived in Paris).

In all, I can't say this is a standard use, and I can't recommend it: As someone who is used to the swung dash the examples in the question read to me as confusing nonsense because I can't figure out what the words omitted are. That is, I read:

*You are the friend ~ the only friend ~ who offered to help me.


You are the friend [text left out] the only friend [text left out] who offered to help me.

And I can't see what that left out text is likely to be here.


stib points out that a reasonable reading if one was familiar enough with this cartoon to have remembered it, is:

You are the friendbeast the only friendbeast who offered help to me.

It even explains the lack of commas. The further that is from what was intended (including the missing commas), the more inadvisable it is.


The usage you show is contrary to explanations given for swung dash by Merriam-Webster and elsewhere. The swung dash is used to replace a word already used, to save spelling it out again.

Conclusion: it's a misuse, either deliberate or accidental. It will either catch on or not.


I venture to suggest that we might see a Japanese influence at work here. Do the people who use swung dashes also use Japanese style emoticons? (?_?)


Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.