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 ; it is also in ASCII with the same value.
The use of a single character for both hyphen and minus was a compromise made in the early days of fixed-width
However, in proper typesetting
and graphic design, there are distinct characters for
, 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.
Most programming languages, restricting themselves to 7-bit ASCII, use the hyphen-minus, rather than the Unicode character , for denoting subtraction and negative numbers.
On typewriters, it was conventional to use a pair of hyphens to represent an em dash
, and this convention is still sometimes used in computer text.
The hyphen-minus is often used to represent an en dash, which may be used to indicate:
Ranges, such as a time range of "2000–2004".
Connection or direction, as in "The Los Angeles–London flight".
Compound adjectives, when there is already a hyphenated compound present, as in "He submitted his manuscript to an e-book–only publisher".
The en dash is normally longer (the width of a letter "n") than a hyphen, though in a fixed-pitch or typewriter font there is no difference. The hyphen connects closely, the en dash less closely, while the em dash (the width of a letter "m") separates.
The minus sign is nominally the same width as the plus sign, longer than a hyphen; an en dash, being closer to the right length, is sometimes preferred over the hyphen-minus to represent a minus sign when the Unicode minus is not available.