Wikipedia:Hyphens and dashes

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This essay introduces the basics of hyphens, minus signs, en dashes, and em dashes in one easy lesson.

There are at least eight different horizontal dash-like characters of varying lengths defined in Unicode. Wikipedia uses four: the hyphen (sometimes called the hyphen-minus), the minus sign, the en dash, and the em dash.

Hyphen ('-', MOS:HYPHEN) (actually the hyphen-minus character in ASCII or Unicode character sets) are used in many ways on Wikipedia. They are the only short, horizontal dash-like character available as a separate key on most keyboards. They are used in names, such as 'Julia Louis-Dreyfus' or 'Sainte-Ode', and in compound modifiers, as in "hard-boiled egg". Hyphens are also used for prefixes and suffixes, such as 'mid-Atlantic' and 'shell-like'.

In some styles, minus signs are represented using an en dash instead of a minus sign or a hyphen. This is not done in Wikipedia. In math formulas a hyphen-minus codes for a minus sign, but in text '−' produces the minus sign (see below).

En dash ('–', MOS:ENDASH) are slightly longer than hyphens and are used in date ranges, such as 1849–63, and to join two names in a phrase, such as the Michelson–Morley experiment. They are also used in multi-part prefixes, such as 'post–World War II', although for those, either a hyphen or an en dash can be used; British publications use hyphens, and American publications use en dashes.

Em dash ('—', MOS:EMDASH) are even longer and are used to set aside a phrase—like this—in a sentence.

Minus sign ('−', Wikipedia:Manual of Style/Mathematics#Minus sign) are available for negative numbers such as −4 but can cause difficulties in sorts and searches.

Hyphens can be used for initial entry of any of the above, and replacement with a more precise form may be done by other subsequent editors. Disrupting Wikipedia to constantly complain about the consensus for the more precise forms can be annoying.

Computer keys for dashes[edit]

Many computer devices have special key chords (combinations of keys) which can be pressed together to enter various dash characters.

  • Numeric keypad: Alt+0150 for en dash "–" or Alt+0151 for em dash "—".[1]
  • Option key: Opt+- for en dash "–" or Shift+ Opt- for em dash "—".
  • On iOS Devices, tap and hold (long press) the - on-screen key to display choices for the en dash "–" and em dash "—".

The four hyphen/dash like characters used in WP are:

  1. - is a hyphen-minus (ASCII keyboard or Unicode 002D) -
  2. − is a minus (Unicode 2212). This can also be entered from the Special characters: Symbols bar; it's between the ± and ×
  3. – is an en dash (Unicode 2013). This can also be entered from the Special characters: Symbols bar; it's between the m³ and —
  4. — is an em dash (Unicode 2014). This can also be entered from the Special characters: Symbols bar; it's between the – and …

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Typing Special Characters – Microsoft Standard English",, 2011, webpage: WSU-keys.