Having read another excellent answer regarding the use of horizontal line-like characters, I'm interested to know the meanings of the horizontal bar and figure dash.

In the other answer linked above, it is said that the em-dash is the appropriate character to use for parenthetical text, which I too believe to be the case. On the linked pages about the Unicode characters, the horizontal bar has the index entries "quotation dash, HORIZONTAL BAR, BAR, HORIZONTAL dash, quotation" and the comment "quotation dash; long dash introducing quoted text". The comment for the em-dash is similar, but it doesn't have any reference to quotation in its index entries.

The index entries and (lack of) comment for the figure dash give no clues, but based on the name I'd guess that it's intended to be used with numbers, e.g. when giving ranges. But again, in the post linked above it is said that the en-dash is the correct dash to use for this purpose.

If anyone can answer, it would be interesting to know whether the shortcuts for unusual dash characters on Mac, Windows and Linux mightn't be creating figure dashes and horizontal bars as opposed to en- and em-dashes, which look very similar. Personally I'm using the X Windows shortcut Ctrl-Shift-u plus the Unicode number, so they're all equally convenient for me—hence my desire to know what they're all for!

closed as off topic by simchona, user11550, kiamlaluno, Mr. Shiny and New 安宇, Matt E. Эллен Jan 9 '12 at 15:35

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    Is this really specific to English? – simchona Jan 9 '12 at 0:52
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    Can you please explain why a) this is not a question about "Spelling and punctuation, and b) the other question (first link in my post) is not also off-topic? – Ryan Jendoubi Jan 16 '12 at 3:12
  • it's not only in English. – simchona Jan 16 '12 at 3:13
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    That's not good enough. The FAQ specifically welcomes questions on punctuation, and you still haven't distinguished this from the other question which is not closed and has a decent rating. I think you've applied your own rules wrongly, or at least inconsistently, which isn't fair. Notwithstanding that it's been answered, I'd like you to reopen this question, because it's not off topic according to the FAQ. – Ryan Jendoubi Jan 16 '12 at 11:10

A figure dash is a dash which is the same width as a digit (in fonts where all digits are the same width) and is used for alignment purposes. This is often the same width as an en-dash, but does not need to be.

A horizontal bar is often used as a quotation dash, and so has a different meaning to an em-dash.

You can find more on Wikipedia at Figure dash and Quotation dash

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    It would be more accurate to say that the horizontal bar is, rather than is used as, a quotation mark. The horizontal bar character is the character used in various European languages to introduce a line of dialogue.¹ Visually it is similar to an em-dash. – MetaEd Jan 9 '12 at 15:46

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