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The hyphen-minus (-) is a character used in digital documents and computing to represent a hyphen (‐) or a minus sign (−). 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. 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.
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:
- Ranges, as in "2000–2004"
- Connection or direction, as in "The Los Angeles–London flight."
- Compound adjectives, as in "He submitted his manuscript to an e–book–only publisher"
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.