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The hyphen-minus (-) is a character used in digital documents and computing to represent a hyphen (‐) or a minus sign ().[1] It is present in Unicode as code point U+002D - HYPHEN-MINUS; it is also in ASCII with the same value.


The use of 1 character for hyphen and minus, and sometimes also for en dash, was a compromise made in the early days of fixed-width typewriters and computer displays.[2] However, in proper typesetting and graphic design, there are distinct characters for hyphens, dashes, and the minus sign. Usage of the hyphen-minus nonetheless persists in many contexts, as it is well-known, easy to enter on keyboards, and in the same location in all common character sets.

Most programming languages, restricting themselves to 7-bit ASCII, use the hyphen-minus, rather than the Unicode character U+2212 MINUS SIGN, for denoting subtraction and negative numbers.[3]

The hyphen-minus is often used as an en-dash, which is historically a dash of the same width as a lowercase letter "n". It may be used to indicate:

Hyphen-minuses are often used instead of en-dashes in these cases, but this practice generally stems from ignorance of the en-dash and is not preferred.

Contrary, an em dash is the width of an uppercase letter "M". It may be represented by two or three hyphen-minus signs in succession in markup languages or other plain text-only media such as instant messaging.

See also


  1. Jukka K. Korpela (2006). Unicode explained. O'Reilly. p. 382. ISBN 978-0-596-10121-3.
  2. Fischer, Eric. "The Evolution of Character Codes, 1874-1968" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-11-16.
  3. Ritchie, Dennis (c. 1975). "C Reference Manual" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-06-09.
  4. en-dash. The Punctuation Guide.

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