Hyphen: Do not confuse a hyphen with a long dash. A hyphen’s chief function is to merge two or more separate words. For example, in the phrase nice-looking house, the hyphen combines two words, nice and looking, into one compound adjective.
Hyphens are also used to indicate any span or range, such as numbers, years, pages, etc.
Hyphens are covered in rules 14-26.
Hyphens are covered on pages 125-130.
The years 1929-1941 were brutal.
Long Dashes: Long dashes are used to replace commas, semicolons, colons, ellipses, and parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption, or an abrupt change of thought.
You are the friend—the only friend—who offered to help me.
Never have I met such a lovely person—before you.
I pay the bills—she has all the fun.
A semicolon could also be used here.
I need three items at the store—dog food, vegetarian chili, and cheddar cheese.
A colon could also be used here.
My agreement with Fiona is clear—she teaches me French and I teach her German.
Again, a colon would work here.
Please call my agent—Jessica Cohen—about hiring me.
Parentheses or commas would also work here.
I wish you would—oh, never mind.
Ellipses would also work here.
To form a long dash on most PCs, type the first word, then hold down the ALT key while typing 0151 on the numerical pad on the right side of your keyboard.
One method for creating a long dash on a Mac is to press and hold the Shift key, Option key, and minus (hyphen) key.
While there are many more possible uses of the long dash, be sure to curb your temptation to employ this convenient but overused punctuation mark.
Which type of mark, a long dash or a hyphen, should be used in each of the following sentences?
1. Alberto attended the University of Colorado (1981-1985).
2. I never thought I’d settle down-until I met you.
3. Kansas City straddles the Kansas-Missouri border.
4. We were in Kansas-Missouri was just across the border.
Pop Quiz Answers
1. Alberto attended the University of Colorado (1981-1985). CORRECT
2. I never thought I’d settle down—until I met you. (long dash)
3. Kansas City straddles the Kansas-Missouri border. CORRECT
4. We were in Kansas—Missouri was just across the border. (long dash)
Posted on Tuesday, June 2, 2009, at 9:31 am16 Comments on Dashes vs. Hyphens