I've seen a couple writers use this "--" in their writings; what does it mean? I don't have an examples. I would do a simple google search on what it means, but I don't even know what it's called to do so.

  • 1
    Look up "em dash usage" on the web.
    – Robusto
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 4:24
  • 2
    This is two hypens (--) and not an em dash () but this is a common substitute used by folks who can't figure out how to type an em dash with their charset or keyboard. Here's a useful link. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 4:26
  • @P.E. - Can't figure out -- or don't want to bother. (Or, simply can't. I don't know if it would be worth the trouble on my phone, e.g.)
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 8:13
  • @J.R. i'll buy "don't want to bother" on a mobile, or "can't", sure. Do you object to providing a link to people who do want to bother? Two hyphens are fine with me. Hell, I prefer tildes myself. Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 8:52
  • @P.E. – Here's a trick for you: sometimes I've resorted to copy-and-pasting the dash that SE puts between the end of a comment and the user's name.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 6, 2016 at 9:26

1 Answer 1


It is a substitute for an em dash.

From Wikipedia:

When an em dash is unavailable in a particular character encoding environment—as in the ASCII character set—it has usually been approximated as a double (--) or triple (---) hyphen-minus. The two-hyphen em dash proxy is perhaps more common, being a widespread convention in the typewriting era. (It is still described for hard copy manuscript preparation in the Chicago Manual of Style as of the 16th edition, although the manual conveys that typewritten manuscript and copyediting on paper are now dated practices). The three-hyphen em dash proxy was popular with various publishers because the sequence of one, two, or three hyphens could then correspond to the hyphen, en dash, and em dash, respectively.

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