53 Hyphens vs. Dashes


A hyphen (-) is not a dash (– or —).  A dash is the length of two hyphens (generally … it gets complex when you are typesetting, because there are two lengths of dashes, but we’re not typesetting…)  This is important because they do opposite things.  A hyphen links words together that might not otherwise be linked, whereas a dash separates or suggests a change in direction.  A hyphen makes two words hug each other, a dash pushes words away.


In typography, there are differences between en-dashes (length of the letter n) and em-dashes (length of the letter m). It’s rarely necessary to know the distinctions between them unless you find them interesting or are setting type for a publication where someone knows there is a difference.


See The Punctuation Guide for more information.

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