Dashes and Hyphens

Dashes and Hyphens are pretty universally misunderstood and as web content editors, we should always try to use them in appropriate way. All of these different characters can be accessed via the Insert Custom Character tool of the HTML editor. There is a lot to dashes and hyphens (Wikipedia has a large entry on both Hyphens and Dashes that covers these uses and many more), but the main uses you will come across are:

Hyphen "-"

The hyphen should only be used for one reason: hyphenating words. For example:

  • high-school students
  • man-eating shark

En Dash "–"

The En Dash is used between ranges of values, such as a date or number range. For example:

  • 10–20
  • Aug. 20–23, 2010

Custom Character Tool highlighting the endash

Em Dash "—"

The em dash is used in much the way a colon or a set of parentheses is used; it can show an abrupt change in thought or be used where a full stop (or "period") is too strong and a comma too weak.

"At that age I once stabbed my best friend, Fred, with a pair of pinking shears in the base of the neck, enraged because he had been given the comprehensive sixty-four-crayon Crayola box—including the gold and silver crayons—and would not let me look closely at the box to see how Crayola had stabilized the built-in crayon sharpener under the tiers of crayons."

Custom Character Tool highlighting the emdash

Minus Sign "−"

There is also a minus sign that is used to indicate a negative number or subtraction.

Custom Character Tool highlighting the minus sign