Thursday 22 March 2012

Using the Hyphen and the Dash

One of my passions is reading, and although I'm OK at writing myself, I'm not great. That's why I've been trying to improve my skills, and one area I've been working on recently is improving my knowledge of the dash and hyphen.

Now, I'm not afraid to hyphenate, in fact I can hyphenate like the best of them. I know that the hyphen is mostly used to join two words together into a compound word. Check this out:

Time to jump-start my day-to-day use of the well-known hyphen!

You can also use the hyphen to split a word that comes at the end of the line, but is so long that it would look off if you push it down to the next line. I also like using the hyphen for prefixes or pre-fixes. Look at me hyphenate some prefixes below:

She managed to recover her cushion.
She managed to re-cover her cushion.

Well, I cheated, I took the above from this website guide to using the hyphen, but I thought it illustrated the power the hyphen really well. Look at the two sentances. By hyphenating the prefix, the whole meaning of the sentence has changed. Pretty good huh?

Now I have to confess I've been guilty of using the double hyphen in the past instead of the dash. Apparently, this is a cardinal error. You should use an actual dash and not a double hyphen and especially not a hyphen."What?" I hear you ask. "There's a difference?". Yes, there actually is. The dash is not a hyphen, it's a longer thing, and that's what you should use when the need to add a pause to a sentence.

To makes things more complicated, there is actually two types of dash, the en-dash and the em-dash. The en-dash is the shorter one – it looks like this, with no spaces on either side. The em-dash looks like this—much longer and without any spaces. You can pick one as you fancy. I quite like the em-dash I think. Remindes me of my old double hyphen. Anyway, finding the dash on a the keyboard is a toughy, but I've linked a guide there for you. That's the biggest single reason why people use the hyphen instead of the dash.

I hope you find my post useful—I know I learnt from researching it (see the dash I just used instead of the double hyphen!).

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