Hyphen vs. Dash: What's the Difference?
"A Hyphen (-) is used to join words or parts of words, like in 'well-being.' A dash (— or –) is used to create a strong separation in a sentence, like in 'She is going—reluctantly—to the party.'"
A hyphen is a punctuation mark used to join words or separate syllables of a single word. For example, "mother-in-law" or "co-worker" use hyphens to connect related words. Hyphens are also used in compound adjectives like "blue-green."
Conversely, a dash is a punctuation mark used to create a strong separation in a sentence. There are two types of dashes: the en dash (–) and the em dash (—). The en dash is used to represent a range, such as "January–March," while the em dash is used to set off a parenthetical thought or a strong break in a sentence.
In terms of length, a hyphen is the shortest, followed by the en dash, and then the em dash, which is the longest. It's important to note that while hyphens are always the same length, the length of dashes can vary depending on the font and typesetting.
Furthermore, hyphens are never spaced, whereas dashes are sometimes spaced. When using an em dash, spaces are optional and a matter of style. On the other hand, en dashes are typically not spaced. It's important to use these punctuation marks correctly to ensure clarity in writing.
Create strong separation
En dash, em dash
Longer than hyphen
Optional spacing for em dash
She is going—reluctantly—to the party
Hyphen and Dash Definitions
Connects related words.
Her well-being is important.
Indicates a strong break in a sentence.
I need to talk to you—now.
Forms compound adjectives.
The blue-green ocean was mesmerizing.
Represents a range of values.
The meeting is scheduled for January–March.
Separates syllables of a word.
The word 'co-operate' can be hyphenated.
Sets off parenthetical thoughts.
Her cat—which is quite mischievous—knocked over the plant.
Joins parts of words.
She is re-entering the job market.
Can substitute for a colon or semicolon.
She had a choice—leave or stay.
Avoids ambiguity or confusion.
The small-business owner was successful.
Separates items in a list.
She bought apples, oranges, and—surprisingly—cucumbers.
A punctuation mark ( - ) used between the parts of a compound word or name or between the syllables of a word, especially when divided at the end of a line of text.
To move with haste; rush
Dashed into the room.
Dashed down the hall.
To strike violently; smash
Waves dashing on the rocks.
Is a hyphen the same as a minus sign?
No, a hyphen is a punctuation mark, while a minus sign represents subtraction.
Do dashes need to be spaced?
Spacing for em dashes is optional; en dashes are typically not spaced.
Can a dash be used as a comma?
Yes, a dash can be used like a comma to set off a parenthetical thought.
Can a dash replace a colon?
Yes, a dash can sometimes replace a colon for stylistic reasons.
Is a hyphen the same length as a dash?
No, a hyphen is shorter than a dash.
Are hyphens always necessary?
No, hyphens are sometimes optional depending on the style guide.
Is a dash longer than an en dash?
Yes, an em dash is longer than an en dash.
Are hyphens used in informal writing?
Yes, hyphens can be used in both informal and formal writing.
Are there different types of dashes?
Yes, there are two types of dashes: the en dash and the em dash.
Can a hyphen be used to create emphasis?
No, a hyphen is not used for emphasis; that is the role of a dash.
Can a hyphen be used in place of a dash?
No, a hyphen and a dash serve different purposes and should not be used interchangeably.
Are dashes used in formal writing?
Yes, dashes can be used in formal writing, but they should be used sparingly.
Can a dash be used to set off a quotation?
Yes, a dash can be used to set off a quotation for stylistic effect.
Are hyphens used in compound nouns?
Yes, hyphens are often used in compound nouns, such as "mother-in-law."
Can a dash be used to indicate a change in tone?
Yes, a dash can be used to indicate a change in tone in a sentence.
Can a hyphen be used to connect prefixes and suffixes?
Yes, a hyphen can be used to connect prefixes and suffixes to words.
Can a dash be used to indicate an abrupt end?
Yes, a dash can be used to indicate an abrupt end to a sentence.
Can a hyphen be used to connect numbers?
Yes, a hyphen can be used to connect numbers, such as in "2-3 weeks."
Can a hyphen be used to separate items in a list?
No, a hyphen is not used to separate items in a list; that is the role of a comma or semicolon.
Can a dash be used to indicate a pause?
Yes, a dash can be used to indicate a pause in a sentence.
Written bySumera Saeed
Sumera is an experienced content writer and editor with a niche in comparative analysis. At Diffeence Wiki, she crafts clear and unbiased comparisons to guide readers in making informed decisions. With a dedication to thorough research and quality, Sumera's work stands out in the digital realm. Off the clock, she enjoys reading and exploring diverse cultures.
Edited bySawaira Riaz
Sawaira is a dedicated content editor at difference.wiki, where she meticulously refines articles to ensure clarity and accuracy. With a keen eye for detail, she upholds the site's commitment to delivering insightful and precise content.