How to type dashes in style

I never quite get deep into typography. I mostly care about legibility over other aspects. However, after some years on Twitter, I picked up another thing — how to type dashes the right way.

When your message is short — every character matters!

Why bother

The symbol available on average keyboard (-) is called “hyphen minus”. It as, as Russian expression goes, a plug in every barrel.

We tend to use it as a hyphen, a minus, and a dash. Which leaves a lot of room for improvement.

Appropriate contexts really benefit from appropriate characters.

How & when to type dashes

Name Char Context HTML Win Mac WordPress
hyphen minus
em dash Foo — bar.
(thought break)

2016—
(missing part)
— Alt+0151 ⌥ Opt+⇧ Shift+- foo---bar
foo --- bar
foo -- bar
en dash 2015–2016
(range)

Kiev–London
(connection)
– Alt+0150 ⌥ Opt+- foo--bar
foo - bar
figure dash 123‒45‒67
(non–range digits)
‒
minus 2+2−1=3
(math expression)
−

On Windows you need to use right–side numerical keyboard to type these using Alt codes. On notebook you might be able to do this with Fn key, if you have “virtual” numerical keyboard overlayed on top of main one.

TL;DR

At the very least learn to type em dash (pretty breaks in sentences) and en dash (well looking ranges). You will get most use out of those.

Keep the rest in mind for cases when you make texts that will be prominently displayed for a long time (such as web site elements).

Materials used

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