A Conversation for Punctuation - a Quick Guide

Hyphen and Dashes

Post 1



sorry that I have to disagree with your remarks about hyphen/dashes. I try to elaborate on that.

In fact, there are at least three kinds of ``horizontal line'' punctation marks (four if you also consider the minus sign).

First, there's the hyphen, shortest of all, and thicker. It's used for compounds like ``e-mail'' and -- you guess it -- for hyphenation (breaking words across lines).

Then there are the en-dash, thinner than the hyphen, with the same width as the letter ``n'' and the em-dash, same thickness, width of the letter ``m''. Both are used to separate parts of a sentence (e.g. interjections); which one is employed is mostly a matter of taste and language. In German, em-dashes are almost never used; en-dashes are the norm. In English, both can be found -- it differs from one text to the next (perhaps it's also a matter of BE versus AE, I'm not a native speaker).

Because computer keyboards usually have only one ``horizontal line character'' (hyphen), this one usually gets employed for everything (hyphen, dash, minus),although most word processors / typsetting systems offer the others, too. This may be a reason why people confuse them (when writing with computers).

Of course, all this is more about typography and less about punctation itself.

I hope I clarified things a bit and didn't get anything wrong.


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Hyphen and Dashes

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