hyphen(-), dash(—), minus(-)

What do I use when? and does it really matter? And what's their origin, why did people think they needed another very similar sign?


The minus and hyphen sign are the same thing. A hyphen is a short, single-character line which connects word parts (i.e. ice-cream). A dash is a longer line—double the length of a hyphen—which indicates a break or an interruption in the thought. Dashes are used to set off part of a sentence. Unlike parentheses, which tend to minimize, dashes tend to emphasize the set-off text (i.e. There was only one person suited to the job—Mr. Lee).

I am not sure of their origin.

https://owl.english.purdue.edu/engagement/3/7/98/ http://www.edufind.com/english-grammar/hyphens-and-dashes/

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  • There are separate recommended used for the en dash (–) and the em dash (—). I believe you were referring (correctly) to usage for the em dash. Style guides vary as to usage of en dash. – Brian Hitchcock Jul 17 '15 at 8:56
  • oh, and by the way, "ice cream" is generally NOT hyphenated in AmE, except perhaps when used as a modifier (e.g. "ice-cream sandwich"). – Brian Hitchcock Jul 17 '15 at 9:03
  • For competent printers, the hyphen: - , the minus sign: − , the short dash: – , and the long dash: — , are four different things, although the short dash and the minus sign are awfully close, and the two dashes are to some extent interchangeable. – Peter Shor Apr 30 '19 at 17:02

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