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When is a hyphen not a hyphen?

6th November 2013 | Written by David Smith 


One of life's more interesting facts is that just when you think you know it all, it turns out that you don't. I've lived the first 25 years of my life thinking that a dash is a dash is a hyphen is a dash. In short, I thought a dash/hyphen was a universal, versatile little line that you could use as a welcome alternative to a comma. Don't tut, my B grade GCSE in English and fondness for reading teenage illustrated fiction mean that my command of language is well safe init, I just didn't know, yeh. A few years later I discovered there was a difference between a hyphen and a dash and proceeded to pat myself on the back for being a black-belt typographical master. I scoffed and sneered at the artwork set by 'lesser' studios who still insisted on using the lazy and ignorant keyboard dash, when they clearly should have used the infinitely superior rule instead – the fools. Predictably it appears that I was as ignorant as them all along and today my mind has been blown wide open by the knowledge that there are in fact 7 types of dash! Seven. Types. Of. Dash. Not only that, but what I had thought was a minus sign all these years, isn't a minus sign it's a mutha f'ing hyphen. Shit just got real at the 49th.

We aren't talking tildes here, Christ only knows what they're for (other than to form an irritating part of passwords) we are talking straight lines for use in every day written (not coded) English only. 

Let's look at them one by one;

1. -
2. ‐
3. ‒
4. −
5. –
6. —
7. ―

I know what you're thinking; "Dave, I just don't care, they all look the same"

Agreed, but how are you supposed to claim immediate superiority over other designers (hopefully those younger and more innocent than you) unless you have microscopic bits of obscure fact to batter their enthusiasm into submission with? Imagine the scene; you have been press-ganged into attending one of those Godforsaken 'creative' networking meetings where everyone gathers round discussing who's got the yellowest pencil. Some ginger beard sporting, Shoreditch based chump designer starts getting a bee in their bonnet about some font or other, the latest social network or whatever trendy style they're trying to pass off as their own this week and there's your opportunity. Get stuck in with the 7 dash lingo and watch the power shift before thoust very eyes.

You're welcome.

Here is the guide; download it, share it and don't forget that you heard it here first!
(Unless you had better tutors than I had anyway)

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