What is the difference between a hyphen and a dash and when should I use them?
What is an “em dash” and what is an “en dash” and how do I use them?
1. hyphen (-) : Mac and PC: hyphen key: The hyphen connects compound words.
There are permanent compounds that have found their way into the dictionary (henhouse, makeup, notebook).
- Kilowatt-hour, mass-produce, ill-favored, tie-in, toll-free call, two-thirds. A food-loving back-to-the-land generalist who became obsessed with fermentation
There are also examples when using a compound adjective before a noun.
- A fast sailing ship. Or, a fast-sailing ship
2. en dash (–) : Mac: Option + – = – / PC “Alt” and type “0151.” The en dash connects things that are related to each other by distance.
- Seven–ten days
- You will find the article in the May–September issue of Scientific American
- According to Frank Hanks, there should be a reference to what Edward Said calls “Orientalism” (147–48).
Or combining open compounds (note prefix connected to proper noun):
- North Carolina–Virginia border
- a high school–college conference
- Post–Civil War
3. em dash (—) : PC “Alt” and type “0151” / Mac: Shift + Option + – = —. Em dashes may replace commas, semicolons, colons, and parentheses in apposite phrases, to indicate added emphasis, to interrupt or change thought:
- “The Incompletion figured in the dash—is life” (McHugh 113)
- Dickinson’s use of the dash—a mark of punctuation a reader encounters throughout her work—requires careful scrutiny
- There is little room for error—whether one is consuming French fries or pork rinds.
(The practice of using two hyphens for a dash, although acceptable, is a holdover from the days of typewriters).