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.