hyphen vs. dash ,underscore?

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exynos1

New Member
English
Please, could you help me to get the right meaning of these three words??

Hyphen

Dash

Underscore

I need to name these symbols: - and _

It is a bit confusing for me. :confused:

Thanks a lot.
 
  • entangledbank

    Senior Member
    English - South-East England
    The hyphen is basically to join two words together, as in 'half-way'. The two sizes of dash are to divide parts of sentences – like this. The shorter one has spaces around it, but the longer one has none—like this.

    The underscore used to be how a typewriter did underlining (under a word). First you typed 'this', then you moved four letters back and typed _ under 't', _ under 'h', and so on: this then this then finally this. Now it's not used for that purpose, but is often used in the name of computer variables where you can't use a space: such as this_example_name.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    Underscore is easy as it is a distinct character on most keyboards.

    However, most keyboards only have one "dash" key (even if the have a separate "minus" key, it usually produces the same character), which usually prints as a hyphen. However, it often needs to be used as an en-dash, and em-dash or a minus sign, particularly in situations — like this forum for instance — where there is no easy way of generating special characters:
    1. A hyphen has no spaces on either side and, since the character prints as a hyphen anyway, you need to nothing: it comes ready-made.
    2. For an en-dash, you add spaces on either side - like this. The character is still really a hyphen, but it will be read as an en-dash (or just a "dash"). An en-dash is also used to indicate a range, but few people worry about seeing an un-spaced hyphen instead, and if they wanted to give a name to the character in "the 1914-1918 war", for example, they would call it a dash, even though it is actually printed as a hyphen.
    3. The only sensible way of showing an em-dash in plain text is by using two hyphens--like this. Few people use double-hyphens, and I think a spaced hyphen (as in #2) is more popular, which might just be called "dash" if you needed to refer to it.
    4. A minus sign is obvious from its use in a calculation.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    Underscore is easy as it is a distinct character on most keyboards.

    However, most keyboards only have one "dash" key (even if the have a separate "minus" key, it usually produces the same character), which usually prints as a hyphen. However, it often needs to be used as an en-dash, and em-dash or a minus sign, particularly in situations — like this forum for instance — where there is no easy way of generating special characters:
    1. A hyphen has no spaces on either side and, since the character prints as a hyphen anyway, you need to nothing: it comes ready-made.
    2. For an en-dash, you add spaces on either side - like this. The character is still really a hyphen, but it will be read as an en-dash (or just a "dash"). An en-dash is also used to indicate a range, but few people worry about seeing an un-spaced hyphen instead, and if they wanted to give a name to the character in "the 1914-1918 war", for example, they would call it a dash, even though it is actually printed as a hyphen.
    3. The only sensible way of showing an em-dash in plain text is by using two hyphens--like this. Few people use double-hyphens, and I think a spaced hyphen (as in #2) is more popular, which might just be called "dash" if you needed to refer to it.
    4. A minus sign is obvious from its use in a calculation.
    You managed the em dash. I do too by using the ASCII code [Alt + 196] ─. Most of the ASCII basic codes work, but some of the advanced ones do not.

    For example ALT + 8535 should result in "3/5" (it does in MS Word), but here it results in "W".

    I think I use the dash more often than most. I don't know what makes me decide what should be separated by a dash as opposed to a comma. I suspect it is a longer pause. I will have to examine my phrases preceded by dashes more closely.
     

    Uncle Jack

    Senior Member
    British English
    You managed the em dash. I do too by using the ASCII code [Alt + 196] ─. Most of the ASCII basic codes work, but some of the advanced ones do not.
    I don't have a numerical keypad on the laptop I'm using right now, so I don't think alt-codes work. I happened to have Microsoft Word open where two hyphens between letters (and no spaces) gives an em-dash (and letter-space-hyphen-space-letter gives an en-dash).
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I don't have a numerical keypad on the laptop I'm using right now, so I don't think alt-codes work. I happened to have Microsoft Word open where two hyphens between letters (and no spaces) gives an em-dash (and letter-space-hyphen-space-letter gives an en-dash).
    Yes, a double hyphen will result in a dash in MS Word, but not in most forums. I will have to check on my tablet whether that will work too.
     
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