We currently have a tag with 54 questions. Some of these questions are not about hyphens but about other types of dashes, i.e. the en dash and (sometimes) the em dash.

Which of the following should be done to address this?

  • Leave the tag as-is.
  • Rename it to (or , since it would cover several types of dashes) and adapt the tag wiki excerpt to

    For questions about when and whether to use a certain types of dashes, i.e. the hyphen (-), the en dash, the em dash and the figure dash.

  • Add a new tag with the following tag wiki excerpt:

    For questions about when and whether to use the en dash, the em dash or the figure dash. For questions about hyphens, use the hyphens tag.

If we choose the third option, the tag wiki excerpt for will need to be edited to add:

For other types of dashes, use the tag 'dashes'.

  • 3
    I like the option of creating the new tag, rather than renaming the old one.
    – J.R. Mod
    Jan 1, 2017 at 0:29
  • I don't have any sense that dash style is part of language use, whether English or any other. Of meeting some formal style prescriptions, okay, but not language qua language. Understanding is never -to my best knowledge anyway- dependent on the length of a dash. (Reading wiki's prescriptiveness about the various flavors of dash, I had to laugh. What on Earth do they do when writing something by hand? Or is that skill, along with good sense, lost to them?)
    – MMacD
    Jan 2, 2017 at 12:31
  • 2
    @MMacD It's not just Wikipedia that distinguishes between hyphens and other types of dashes. Check the references in my answer to an ELL SE question about hyphen & en dash.
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 2, 2017 at 12:37
  • Oh, I distinguish between them too, Christophe -- but they're not part of language, they're just stylistic, like capitalisation. As German still does, 18th-c. writers in English capitalised nouns. The style changed so that nobody expects nouns to be capitalised in English these days, but the language was unchanged. The ability --and willingness-- to distinguish between dashes is similar: someone might be sneered at by stylistic pedants for not using the "proper" kind of dash, but few will notice, or care.
    – MMacD
    Jan 2, 2017 at 13:10
  • @MMacD Do you think the tag wiki excerpt for hyphens should be reworded, then? It currently does not cover other types of dashes.
    – Tsundoku
    Jan 2, 2017 at 13:13
  • I like your third idea best: 2 tags. To formalise it, I've said so in an answer.
    – MMacD
    Jan 2, 2017 at 13:18
  • 1
    In another post, the original poster has stated that concatenated phrases like "well-educated", "en-dash", and words broken over multiple lines like "antidisestab-lishmentarian" use hyphens, whereas numeric ranges like "100-400 meters" use en-dashes. I do not think that most native speakers of English (whether educated or not) would consider this to be a natural distinction.
    – Jasper
    Jan 2, 2017 at 17:21
  • @MMacD Why would dash-style not be considered as much a part of the language as any other finer point of punctuation style? Jan 4, 2017 at 21:52
  • @KyleStrand: Because, like capitalisation, they don't affect understanding. They might affect us on a social level, just as knowing or not knowing what fork to use at a formal dinner can affect how we're perceived by those who think such things are important, but the reality is that our ability to communicate is unaffected. Since which dash we use, or whether we use a dash at all, doesn't alter the meaning of what we're expressing, how can it be part of language rather than styling? And typographic styling at that!
    – MMacD
    Jan 5, 2017 at 10:33
  • 2
    @MMacD Well, because, presumably, different languages have different rules/guidelines/conventions for their usage. I would say that capitalization differences are also part of the language; German capitalization is different from English capitalization. And languages are nothing but social convention--every aspect of them, including these "merely" stylistic aspects, does impact "our ability to communicate." Jan 5, 2017 at 16:59
  • 1
    @MMacD Do you consider the written word to not be part of a language?? Jan 9, 2017 at 5:18
  • 2
    You could consider written languages to be separate languages if you really wanted, but I honestly think it's absurd to say that they're "not languages". Jan 9, 2017 at 19:48
  • 1
    @KyleStrand: (Sorry for not @-ing you! I'll try to do better) We understand written Latin because of its many descendants around the Med rim. If there were no such descendants, we'd be in the same position vis-á-vis Latin as we were with Ancient Egyptian before the Rosetta Stone. If you'd like a different example, try to decode Linear A, the VinĨa texts, the Phaistos disc, or, for a lot of fun, the Harappan symbols. Nobody even knows whether the Harappan symbols represent a language as such, but they look as though a lot of energy went into creating them.
    – MMacD
    Jan 9, 2017 at 20:42
  • 1
    @MMacD I don't think my previous comment conflicts with your statement about how we know ancient Latin; I'm just saying that many people are literate in Latin but don't know how to speak it, which (as I understand it) is indeed the "opposite situation" that you were saying in your comment I'd "never find." I'm not sure what your point is about dead languages no one alive today understands. Jan 9, 2017 at 20:53
  • 1
    @KyleStrand: I don't know of any evidence that any culture ever developed a written form of their language first, but there's lots of evidence of spoken languages that have no standard written representation. Scots and Low Saxon are two such. There's a literature in each one, but there's no orthography. The authors simply represent as best they can their own spoken dialect.
    – MMacD
    Jan 9, 2017 at 21:01

2 Answers 2


I like your idea of 2 nominal tags

  • hyphens
  • dashes

but make them point to the same queue, since learners are likely to know one word but not the other, or think that "hyphen" is a generic term like "dash".


I think we should leave the tag as it is. I just looked through the list of questions. All 54 questions seem to be about hyphenation.

  • What would you think about changing it to hyphenation then?
    – ColleenV
    Jan 2, 2017 at 16:56
  • 1
    As a tag name, "hyphens" has some advantages over "hyphenation". "Hyphens" is shorter. I suspect that the singular word "hyphen" is more likely to occur to people than the abstract noun "hyphenation". I suspect that "hyphens" is more understandable at first glance to a non-native speaker than "hyphenation".
    – Jasper
    Jan 2, 2017 at 17:01
  • 1
    Fair enough - we could make them synonyms though, so folks could type "hyphen" and the question would end up tagged "hyphenation". It just jumped out to me that you said "all of these questions are about hyphenation" and not "about hyphens".
    – ColleenV
    Jan 2, 2017 at 17:06
  • as far as I could tell there are only two questions currently tagged hyphens which would benefit from a dash tag. ell.stackexchange.com/search?q=%5Bhyphens%5D+dash
    – Mari-Lou A
    Jan 13, 2017 at 7:40

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