Originally posted by
No, a hyphen is not a dash, but since we do not have the symbol on our keyboard, using spaces around the hyphen works just fine.
Actually, you should type two hyphens for it to serve as a dash. If you use two hyphens, you have the option of making it either a closed or open em dash, though only newspapers and journals follow the open em dash rule (and that is only for typesetting purposes). All other U.S. style guides---and most of Great Britain's, except for a couple of publishing houses---dictate the use of the closed em dash. (As a reference point, I used a pair of closed em dashes in my above statement -- because I wanted to illustrate what it looks like. And in the previous sentence, I illustrated an open em dash. I also used triple and double hyphens, respectively, instead of converting to "real" dashes in Word.)
For anyone interested in making a solid em dash in Microsoft Word (to be used in the closed style), simply type in a letter or a word, then two hyphens, then another letter or word, and then hit the space bar (like this: a--b ). When you hit the space bar, Word will convert the two hyphens to a longer, solid em dash (from -- to —). You can then copy and paste the dash into your text. It never takes me more than a few seconds (if even that).
Open em dashes actually use an en dash surrounded by spaces on either side. An en dash is what is formed in Microsoft Word if you type in a word or letter, a space, then two hyphens, then another space, then another word or letter, and then a space (like this: a -- b ). What is produced is a bit shorter than what Word produces when you type this: a--b .
Here is the difference between the en dash and the em dash, as produced by Word in the manner described above: – versus —. On the left is an en dash formed by two hyphens WITH spaces on either side of them, and on the right is an em dash formed by two hyphens with no spaces on either side of them. Please note that even the shorter of the two is longer than a hyphen: - versus – versus —.
If you decide to buck convention and make the stylistic choice to use open em dashes on EF and do not want to convert to a solid en dash in Word, you can just place spaces on either side of the double hyphens (like -- this). For a closed em dash, you can type in three hyphens to better approximate the length of an em dash since closed double hyphens look a bit claustrophobic (like---this). However, it would be perfectly fine--and grammatically correct--to use double hyphens in forming a closed em dash as well (like--this).
***But again, no matter if you choose the more commonly endorsed closed style or the open style, double hyphens are perfectly acceptable if you need a dash (and three are fine for closed style if you prefer). However, a single hyphen is not at all grammatically correct to be used as a dash.