Hyphen vs Dash: The Use Of Punctuation In Spanish

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Punctuation in Spanish is tricky to master when learning Spanish grammar: dashes and hyphens are no exception. Read these tips from iScribo to learn them.

At first glance they may look almost the same, but if you look a little closer, these two spelling marks are completely different, not only in terms of their appearance but also in terms of their use.

Which is used for dialogue, the hyphen symbol, or dash symbol? What is a long dash? Clear up your doubts about these punctuation marks with the help of your favourite grammar checker.

Dash or long dash? I’m always confused!

Don’t worry, the Spanish m dash symbol (—) is often called a long dash (but the Spanish RAE advises against it) and is just that, a horizontal dash longer than the traditional Spanish hyphen symbol (-). Do not confuse it with the minus sign (–), which has an intermediate length.

It is very common to type a hyphen instead of the dash, as this sign is not on the normal keyboard. To type the dash symbol, use the combination ALT 0151 on your numeric keypad or look for it in the symbols under the Insert tab of the Toolbar. If you’re using your laptop, I’m afraid only the latter option will work.

When do you use the dash symbol?

This spelling sign has several uses, here are the two most frequent ones on the Spanish grammar:

  • To make incises: in this case, the dash can be replaced by commas or parentheses. If there are already parentheses in the sentence, use the dash instead. Keep in mind that the dash is attached to the first and last character it encloses.

Me gusta aprender idiomas —incluso el chino— aunque me cueste trabajo (I like to learn languages, even Chinese, although if it’s hard work).

  • To introduce dialogue and dialogue breaks. As you will see in this example, the initial dash symbol needs a space with the word it introduces, but it is attached to the word of the clause:

— Hola, Pedro —dijo Sara. (‘Hello, Peter,’ said Sara).

Maybe what I need to use is a hyphen symbol…

The first thing you need to know is that in Spanish, the hyphen is called guion, a diphthong word, and the RAE recommends writing it without the accent (practise your Spanish and read this interesting article from Fundéu). Its main uses are:

  • To join words or other signs: tren Madrid-Granada (train Madrid-Granada), crítico-literario (literary critic).
  • To separate linguistic content:
  • Syllables: ca sa (hou-se)
  • To mark suffixes or prefixes (where appropriate): -ísimo, pre-OTAN (before NATO).

It doesn’t stop there

We could spend days discussing the use of the dash symbol and hyphen symbol, and how to combine them with other spelling marks, but if you know these basic rules of punctuation in Spanish, you will be able to start using them without mistakes, and then expand your knowledge little by little. Follow our blog closely and our social networks to stay up to date with the latest in the use of Spanish grammar. Don’t miss a single detail with iScribo!

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