The snobs of dashes aka the dash nazi’s

An em-dash is typically used to act as a comma or parenthesis to separate out phrases—or even just a word—in a sentence for various reasons (i.e. an appositive). Examples where an em-dash should be used:

  • School is based on the three R’s—reading, writing, and ’rithemtic.
  • Against all odds, Pete—the unluckiest man alive—won the lottery.
  • I sense something; a presence I’ve not felt since—

An en-dash is used to connect values in a range or that are related. A good rule is to use it when you’re expressing a “to” relationship. Examples where an en-dash should be used:

  • in years 1939–1945
  • pages 31–32 may be relevant
  • New York beat Los Angeles 98–95
  • Olivia Newton–John
  • When American English would use an em-dash – following British and Canadian conventions.

hyphen is used to join words in a compound construction, or separate syllables of a word, like during a line break.

  • pro-American
  • cruelty-free eggs
  • em-dash
  • it’s pronounced hos-pi-tal-it-tee

Finally, a minus sign is distinct from all three of the above.

  • 4 − 2 = 2.

If you want to use the correct dash or hyphen in StackExchange comments, just use the appropriate HTML entity:  — for em-dash,  – for en-dash, and  − for the minus sign. The hyphen is, of course, on directly your keyboard.

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