Hyphen

Updated: 05/01/2023 by Computer Hope
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Alternatively known as a dash, subtract, negative, or minus sign, the hyphen ( - ) is a punctuation mark on the underscore key next to the "0" key on U.S. keyboards. Pictured is an example of the hyphen and underscore key.

Where is the hyphen key on the keyboard?

Below is a computer keyboard with the hyphen keys highlighted in blue. One is on the main keyboard, and the other is on the numeric keypad.

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How to create the hyphen symbol

Creating the "-" symbol on a U.S. keyboard

To create a hyphen using a U.S. keyboard, press the hyphen key. It's on the same key as the underscore ( _ ), to the right of the zero key.

Tip The hyphen is easier to use on the numeric keypad with math formulas.
Tip

Doing the Alt code Alt+45 can also create a hyphen.

Creating the "-" symbol on a smartphone or tablet

To create a hyphen on a smartphone or tablet, open the keyboard and go into the numbers (123) or symbols (sym) section and tap the "-" symbol.

Differences between dash, hyphen, and minus

Although the same keyboard key is used for a dash, hyphen, and minus, there are differences between these terms. Below is a basic definition for each of these terms.
  • A dash is a punctuation mark to insert an interjection or pause in a sentence.
  • A hyphen is a punctuation mark that's used to join words.
  • A minus is a math operator to perform a subtraction between two numbers.
  • A negative is placed before a number to indicate it's not a positive number.

What is a hyphen used for on a computer?

With computers, the hyphen key is commonly used in programming and mathematics to subtract one number from another. The following sections contain examples of how a hyphen is used.

Hyphen in a math formula

In a math formula, a hyphen represents a subtraction (minus). For example, the formula below shows that 2 <minus> 1 equals 1.
2 - 1 = 1

To subtract numbers on a computer or smartphone, a calculator or spreadsheet could be used.

Hyphen in word processors

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In many word processors, an optional hyphen or hyphenation is automatically inserted when a word is cut off by the end of a line. When formatting marks are enabled, these hyphens are represented with the conditional hyphen mark.

Tip A hyphen can also be used to create an en dash and em dash in many word processors by doing two or three hyphens next to each other.

Hyphen in a search

With Internet search engines, the hyphen is used as a boolean operator that tells the search not to include a result. For example, if you used the below search, the search engine would return results containing "free," "computer," and "help" but would not return any results containing "expensive.&quot;

free computer help -expensive

A hyphen in English

Hyphens are used in some compound words to make the word easier to read and help clarify words used together. For example, "to-do," "merry-go-round," "high-risk," "T-shirt," and "sixty-six" are all words with hyphens. See the when should I hyphenate words section for further information.

Creating a line separator

Joining several hyphens together helps create a divider line in the text to make things easier to read, as shown below.
Example of some text.
------------------------------
That has been separated with several hyphens.
Note Word processors and other text editors may automatically convert several hyphens placed together into a solid line.

Hyphen in shortcuts

The hyphen can be used in keyboard shortcuts. For example, pressing Ctrl+- while in a browser zooms out and decreases the font size of a web page.

Other places with the minus symbol

A minus symbol or a horizontal line indicates a decrease, remove, move up, or zoom out on programs and hardware devices. In Microsoft Windows, the minus or underscore is also shown on the top-right side of a window to represent the minimize feature.

How to create a longer hyphen

A dash that's longer than a hyphen is called an en dash or em dash. See our en dash and em dash pages for further information on creating these longer hyphens.

When should I hyphenate words?

Hyphens are used in some compound words (connected words) to make the word easier to read and help clarify words used together. For example, "to-do," "merry-go-round," "high-risk," "T-shirt," and "sixty-six" are all words with hyphens. Below are rules of hyphenation. However, realize many rules only apply in certain circumstances.
  1. Hyphenate two or more words that act as a new word or has a new meaning when connected. For example, "know-how" has a different meaning than "know" and "how."
  2. Hyphenate words that act together to modify the following word. For example, "full-scale" modifies "test" in "full-scale test." However, do not hyphenate connected words that act as adjectives.
  3. Do not hyphenate connected words if the first word ends with "ly."
  4. Use a hyphen when writing a compound number. For example, "eighty-two" and "twenty-two" are both compound numbers that need a hyphen.
  5. Compound verbs are either hyphenated or should appear as one word.
  6. When writing a word with a prefix, avoid using hyphens in most situations.
  7. All spelled-out fractions should be hyphenated.
  8. Always use a hyphenation when splitting a word at the end of a line.

What is the other symbol on the hyphen key?

On U.S. keyboards, the hyphen key is shared with the underscore key, which may be next to or above the hyphen symbol.

Em dash, En dash, Hyphenation, Keyboard terms, Plus, Punctuation, Subtract, Typography terms