What Is the Difference Between a Hyphen and a Dash?


Quick Answer

Dashes (—) are longer than hyphens (-). Grammatically, dashes are used to set off parenthetical elements, according to the Guide to Grammar and Writing on the Capital Community College website. Hyphens are used to link words and word elements, Oxford Dictionaries state.

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Full Answer

Hyphens are used in compound words, to demonstrate word breaks and to connect some prefixes with other words, Oxford Dictionaries states. There are actually three types of dashes, as shown on the CCC webpage. The regular dash is the em-dash (about the width of the letter m in proportional typography). The en-dash (the width of the letter n) is not as wide and is generally used to fill the space between dates in a chronological range (1955–1980, for example). The third dash, a 3-em dash (or six hyphens) is used to show that a name or a word has been omitted for legal or other reasons. A dash on old-fashioned typewriters is represented by two hyphens (--).

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