Hyphens aren’t as simple as they may seem. A simple hyphen (-) has a very different usage to a long hyphen (–), or em dash to use the correct term.

Short hyphens (-) are used as regular hyphens, to be applied to compound word phrases (eg, self-satisfied). Whereas em dashes are used where the sentence needs to be broken to explain further. Below are examples:

  • Here is an explanation of the term – which I will reference below – which should help.
  • A plan was to follow – but it wasn’t explained.

On Macs, hyphens are typed using the button right of the 0 key (-), whereas em dashes are typed by pressing alt and the button to the right of the 0 key (ie, the – key). I rarely use PCs, but apparently you can type an em dash by pressing Ctrl+Alt+Minus.

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