20 Jul What’s the Difference Between a Hyphen and a Dash?
Hyphens and dashes are two different punctuation marks with distinct uses. They are often confused, but they serve different purposes and have separate formatting styles.
What’s the Difference Between a Hyphen and a Dash?
Hyphens and dashes are two distinct punctuation marks with different uses. Here’s a brief explanation of the differences between them:
A hyphen is the shortest of the three marks, and it is primarily used to connect words or parts of words within a single word.
Some common uses of hyphens include:
- Joining compound words: e.g., mother-in-law, well-known, self-esteem.
- Connecting numbers: e.g., twenty-one, fifty-four.
- Forming adjectives: e.g., blue-eyed, high-pitched.
En Dash (–)
The en dash is slightly longer than a hyphen, and its name comes from being roughly the width of the letter “N.” Its primary use is to represent a range of values, whether it’s numbers, dates, or times.
Some common uses of en dashes include:
- Indicating a range of numbers: e.g., pages 10–20, 2000–2020.
- Representing a range of dates: e.g., Monday–Friday, 2010–2015.
- Showing a relationship between two related items: e.g., the London–New York flight.
Em Dash (—)
The em dash is the longest of the three marks, and its name comes from being roughly the width of the letter “M.” It is used to set apart clauses or phrases, similar to parentheses or commas, to add emphasis or provide additional information.
Some common uses of em dashes include:
- Emphasizing a point: e.g., She was determined to finish the race—no matter what.
- Setting off a parenthetical phrase: e.g., The movie—which I saw last night—was fantastic.
- Creating a dramatic pause or interruption in dialogue: e.g., “I just thought that—oh, never mind.”