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The dash is a punctuation mark that is similar in appearance to the hyphen and minus sign, but differs from these symbols in both length and height. The most common versions of the dash are the en dash (–), longer than a hyphen; the em dash (—), longer than the en dash; and the horizontal bar (―), whose length varies across typefaces.

Historically, the names of en dash and em dash were loosely related to the width of a lower-case n and upper-case M, respectively, in commonly used typefaces.

Usage varies both within English and in other languages, but the usual convention in printed English text is as follows:

  • An em dash or a spaced en dash can be used to mark a break in a sentence, and a pair can be used to set off parenthetical statements.

Glitter, felt, yarn, and buttons—his kitchen looked as if a clown had exploded. A flock of sparrows – some of them juveniles – alighted and sang.

  • The en dash but not the em dash indicates spans or differentiation, where it may be considered to replace "and" or "to" (but where the expression is introduced by "from", "to" is normally used, not a dash; similarly, "between X and Y"):

The French and Indian War (1754–1763) was fought in western Pennsylvania and along the present US–Canada border (Edwards, pp. 81–101).

  • The em dash or the horizontal bar, but not the en dash is used to set off the sources of quotes:

*Seven social sins: politics without principles, wealth without work, pleasure without conscience, knowledge without character, commerce without morality, science without humanity, and worship without sacrifice.—Mahatma Gandhi

The horizontal bar (or the em dash, but not the en dash) introduces quoted text at line start.


The hyphen (‐) is a punctuation mark used to join words, and to separate syllables of a single word. The use of hyphens is called hyphenation. Non-
is an example of a hyphenated word. The hyphen should not be confused with dashes (‒, –, —, ―), which are longer and have different uses, or with the minus sign (−), which is also longer in some contexts.

License: CC BY-SA 3.0. Source: wikipedia (1, 2)

See also





Exclamation mark


Question mark

Quotation mark