The dash and hypen are two punctuation signs that get some users confused owing to their similar look.  But really, a dash is a dash; and a hyphen, a hyphen.  Both signs are different, and so is their usage.

A hyphen joins two or more words together while a dash separates words into parenthetical statements. A parenthesis contains that word or phrase not required for the meaning of a sentence. In other words, with or without them, a sentence retains its meaning.

A hyphen joins words or parts of a word together as can be seen in the following examples:

  • In compound words: Mother-in-law, Send-off, self-respect, state-of –the-art-equipment, etc. Also, it is this same sign we use with our compound names likeFani-Kayode.
  • To tell one’s age:A two-year old girl
  • In numbers above twenty: Twenty-one
  • With prefixes: Ex-governor, re-make…

A dash on the other hand, separates words or phrases from the main sentence.  It can be used to replace brackets [just as what is contained within a bracket neither adds nor remove from the meaning of the sentence proper], although not very formal when writing.  These parenthetical statements separated by a dash only give additional info should it be needed by the reader.

A dash is also used for emphasis at the end of a sentence; just like a colon (:) but less formal than a colon.

Examples of the use of the dash:

  • For emphasis: If you don’t tell me what I want to hear in 5mins, I will walk you out of my property – and I mean it.  Staying true makes one beautiful – really beautiful.
  • For separating parenthetical statements: Mrs Williams – the lady who just gave a speech – will be leaving for Austria tonight.  The condiments – pepper, salt, fish, and spring onions – are ready.
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  • The dash has a space in between, while the hyphen is used without any spacing.
  • The dash is longer than the hyphen.

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