When to use a Hyphen, En Dash or an Em Dash and how to type each character on Windows, Linux and Mac.
- Used for connecting words or splitting a word which is broken at the end of a line.
- E.g. “panic-stricken”.
- ‐ Hyphen key (next to zero on your keyboard)
- En dash
- Used for demonstrating a relationship between two things, either conceptually or as a range.
- E.g. “2–3” or “A time–money perspective”.
- Windows: Alt + 0150
- Linux: Compose, -, -
- Mac: Option + -
- Em dash
- Used for a break of thought.
- E.g. “Could it be true—had I misused punctuation for so long?”
- Windows: Alt + 0151
- Linux: Compose, ‐, ‐, ‐
- Mac: Option + Shift + -
- Double Em dash
- Used to indicate missing letters in a word.
- E.g. “What the f——k”.
- Windows: Alt + 0151, Alt + 0151
- Linux: Compose, ‐, ‐, ‐, Compose, ‐, ‐, ‐
- Mac: Option + Shift + -, Option + Shift + -
In Ubuntu, the Compose key is configured from System Settings > Keyboard > Shortcuts > Typing. Personally, I use Alt Gr but there are other options available.
Think of Compose as a mode rather than a modifier; you press and release Compose to enter “Compose Mode”, then once you have entered a sequence it will perform your request (e.g. type an em dash) and go back to regular typing.