The Dash and the Hyphen: You Can Now Tell Them Apart

March 10, 2023by readywriters

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.


  • The dash has a space in between, while the hyphen is used without any spacing.
  • The dash is longer than the hyphen.

Let’s design together

One of the reasons we became interior designers in the first place was because we love collecting and then putting it all together. But when you’re designing your own house, the hardest thing is to finish it, as you’re always adding your next favourite thing, and finally there’s no space left.
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