Difference between Dash and Hyphen

When you’re reading something – a book, an article, a newspaper – you’ll probably come across hyphens and dashes. In the previous sentence, the punctuation separating the word “something” from the list of different types of reading material was a dash. This article will explain the difference between a hyphen and a dash.


Dash vs Hyphen

A hyphen is a shorter mark, looking like this: – and it’s usually used to link two words together. In print, it’s used to link the beginnings of words on one line with the ends of words on another. A few examples of hyphens can be seen in the following sentences:

“He works at a New York-based tech company.”
“The phone’s interface is very user-friendly.”
“Try to keep him up-to-date on ongoing projects.”

Hyphens never have spaces surrounding them.

A dash is a longer mark that’s used as punctuation in sentences rather than used to link words together. A good example of a dash – and it’s in the sentence I’m writing right now – is the previous use of the dash in this sentence to illustrate the usage of the dash. Dashes can also be used to make remarks at the end of a sentence – like this.

Comparison chart

Dash Hyphen
Longer Shorter
Used in punctuation as sentences – usually as parenthetical comments. Used to links individual words together, such as user-friendly.

Dash vs Hyphen

What is the difference between a dash and a hyphen?

Visually, a dash is longer than a hyphen. Where a dash – that looks like this – is about the space of two hyphens, a hyphen looks like this: –

As for usage, a dash is used to introduce a parenthetical comment in a sentence. It can either do so through introducing and finishing a parenthetical comment in the middle of a sentence – like this – or it can do so by ending a sentence with a parenthetical comment – like this.


The video below discusses the differences between a hyphen and a dash, and elaborates on a more specific difference, the difference between an “en” dash and an “em” dash.