Quarter quarter stroke

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A hyphen , even short stroke , is in the typography a short horizontal line. In spelling it can serve various purposes, especially as a hyphen (in words like UHT milk ), as a hyphen to separate words at the end of a line or as a supplementary line (e.g. in upper and lower houses ). The designation quarter square stems from the time of the lead type . The lead letters with which these short lines were printed were the width ( thickness ) of a quarter of a square . The strokes themselves were and are variable in length and thickness, depending on the font .

Divis (stress on the second syllable) is another name used in typesetting for these short strokes, but it does not have exactly the same meaning. In most broken fonts (for example Fraktur ), hyphens and hyphens are in the form of an ascending double bar. These so-called double hyphens are also counted among the divisions, but because of their different shape they are not counted among the quarter dashes.

On the typewriter , on which all characters have the same width, the short quarter-quarter stroke (for the divis) and the half- quarter stroke (for the dash), but also the minus sign, have been replaced by a common symbol: the so-called hyphen-minus. This “compromise sign” showed a slightly wider line than the typical quarter-quarter line. A hyphen minus is also generated on the computer keyboard with the "hyphen key".

With the computer-aided character-based typesetting, the situation arose that both a (broader according to standardization) “typewriter hyphen” and a (narrower) “metal type hyphen”, two technically different characters (regardless of the character shape). While this fact sometimes led to problems in the early days of DTP , but also to heated discussions among typographers, today's typesetting fonts mostly reproduce the same short quarter-quarter stroke in both character positions.



The hyphen is a character that is used when writing either to connect or to clearly structure words. When the German spelling was reformed in 1996 , there were also some changes to the hyphenated spelling .

To the subject

The term hyphen is mainly used in the field of spelling. The term refers to the function of the hyphen to connect the parts of the compound word in compound words such as x-axis .

The so-called supplementary line in constructions such as input and output (=  input and output ) is often interpreted as a hyphen and also referred to as a “supplementary hyphen”. Sometimes the terms supplementary dash and supplementary hyphen are even treated as synonyms . However, there are also supplementary dashes that cannot be interpreted as a hyphen. This is why this topic is dealt with separately in the supplementary line section .

In the field of typography, the characters that are used to represent hyphens are also often referred to as "hyphen". This rather amateur language usage has several disadvantages. On the one hand, the typographic characters, strictly speaking, have nothing to do with the hyphen function - the same lines can also serve other purposes. On the other hand, there are different characters for the hyphen in typography: divis and hyphen-minus . See the sections Development of Typography and Implementation in Computer Systems .

The English word hyphen can mean both “hyphen” and “hyphen”. In German, the English foreign word hyphen is mainly used for the Unicode character, which corresponds to the divis. The character hyphen-minus is in English hyphen-minus .

Cases in which the hyphen must be used

In these cases, the rules use hyphenated spelling:

  1. Compositions with abbreviations , single letters and digits such as
    • Motor vehicle letter
    • Dipl.-Ing.
    • UHT milk
    • i point
    • 100 percent
    • 15 ° meridian
    Links with suffixes other hand, are only separated if it is a composition with a single letter, so, for example, the x-th, but 32nd and DGBler. The suffix -fach may also be understood as an independent word. If the word is continued after a combination of digits and suffixes, a hyphen appears there, for example group of 24. In connection with "year", the spelling can be selected with or without a hyphen (20s or 20s).
  2. Groups of words used nouns such as
    • the either-or
    • putting it on the long bench
    Exceptions to this are clear compositions with an infinitive such as driving a car or entering into force. Regularly formed nouns ( compounds ) do not fall under this rule, regardless of their length, but are written together.
  3. Compositions of equal, co-ordinated adjectives such as
    • German-Polish border
    • manic-depressive behavior
    In contrast, short compositions such as sweet and
    sour, especially color combinations such as black and white, are clear . Adjectives are not of equal rank if the first component defines the second in more detail or only has a reinforcing function, for example in the case of bitterly cold.
  4. Higher-level compositions that contain a hyphenated component must also be hyphenated, for example
    • S-Bahn car
    • S-curve rich
  5. In the case of compositions with word groups , coupling must be carried out. Spaces (or commas in lists) must be replaced by hyphens, for example
    • Head to head race
    • 3 room apartment
    • ENT doctor
    • Service center employee
    This also applies to compositions with multi-part proper names such as Karl-Marx-Straße, even if only a suffix is ​​added (for example the St. Gallic monastery treasures ). The space can only be retained with the suffix -er , for example New Yorker instead of New-Yorker.
  6. Compositions with proper names as a trailing component such as
    • Mrs. Müller-Weber
    • the baker Anna
    • Möbel-Schmidt (according to the rules; many companies with such a name write it with a space instead of a hyphen)
    • Meier ‑ Oldenburg (for: Meier from Oldenburg)
  7. as well as compositions of equal proper names in the case of country or city mergers :
    • Rhineland-Palatinate
    • Neukirchen-Vluyn
    Deviating from this, place names with Sankt and Bad are written separately. The combination of first and last name does not count as a composition. Compounds that are proper nouns as a whole do not necessarily follow regular spelling.
    If only the first part of a composition is a proper name, it is written together ( e.g. Nile Delta ), unless the name needs to be emphasized or has to be separated by a hyphen due to other rules. Subsequent nouns that are more specific to a geographical proper name can be written with a hyphen or separately (München-Ost or München Ost).
  8. From the English native -derived nouns from verb plus adverb as
    • Make up
    • Stand-by
    Unless legibility suffers, it is also permitted to
    write them together, for example standby.

Cases in which the hyphen is optional

In these cases it is up to the writer whether he wants to write with a hyphen:

  1. Words where a hyphen makes it easier to understand
    • Print product or printer certificate instead of unclear print product
  2. Words in which the coincidence of certain letters at the joints disturbs the flow of reading, for example
    • re-integrate
    • Life Au
    • Primal instinct
  3. Words that can no longer be grasped quickly due to their length or complexity , such as
    • Workers' Accident Insurance Act
    • Ultrasonic measuring device
    The hyphen should (initially) be placed at the joint of the highest order.
  4. When three of the same letters come together, for example
    • Keystone next to keystone (see unreformed : keystone )
    • Tea harvest next tea harvest
  5. Compositions of two nouns from foreign languages such as
    • Midlife crisis next to midlife crisis
    • Science fiction next to science fiction
  6. Highlighting of word components as a stylistic device
    • Target strength
    • Think
    • understand
    • counts

Problematic and incorrect spellings

Idiot hyphen:
false alarm instead of the usual false alarm (information text on a smoke detector)

Short, legible compositions such as golf course are written without a hyphen. A hyphen is only provided in the event that the compound word would be too confusing without the hyphen. However, the boundary between “easy to read” and “difficult to read” cannot be determined in a generally applicable manner. The spelling Golf-Platz is therefore not wrong, but stylistically bad. In his language-critical column onion fish, Bastian Sick cites not only golf courses, but also nuclear war, exceptional state, party day, savings plan and eye test as examples. Colloquially, unnecessary hyphens of this type are referred to as idiot hyphens . In the easy language, however , the use of the hyphen in compound words is expressly intended. There it leads to an easier understanding of these words.

The spelling with spaces (“herb lexicon”) is always wrong and can even falsify the meaning (see spaces in compound words ). However, it is still used in certain areas, such as on product packaging (“Goulash Soup”) or in book and film titles (“ The Bourne Conspiracy ”). Regardless of its widespread use, such a spelling is not correct in standard language and is pejoratively referred to as idiot blank .

Spaces before or after the hyphen ( "herb lexicon" ) are also incorrect. In net jargon, incorrectly placed spaces are referred to as " plenks ".


Comparison of line breaks
with dividing lines
without dividing lines

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The hyphen (also: hyphen ) is in typesetting in the word separation used at end of line. If a word no longer completely fits into a line, the line break occurs after a break point determined by the hyphenation rules and a hyphen. This is done for economic reasons (better use of space) and for aesthetic reasons (the side or gap is filled more evenly).

For implementation in word processing see below.

Supplementary line

The supplementary stroke is used, among other things, in compound or derived words instead of a common component. When used in this way, the supplementary dash is more precisely referred to as the supplementary hyphen.


  • Main and side entrance
  • Traffic control and monitoring
  • Students
  • Machine tool import and export stores, sunrise and sunset

It is also allowed:

  • Laser beam fusion, flame and sublimation cutting, i.e. the addition before and after the word component

Supplementary marks are also used in printed telephone directories. Here they serve as an abbreviation for the frequently used address component street or street . Address components such as route, place , etc. are not abbreviated. In addition, an em dash is used to supplement the family name.


  • Müller Achim Frankfurter-56
    - Eva Frankfurter-61
    - Hermann Hochwald-20
    - Willi Bierweg 4
    (without spaces)
    (instead of: Frankfurter Straße 61)
    (instead of: Hochwaldstraße 20)
    (written out for clear differentiation)

The supplementary dash is also known as the ellipsis . There are other forms of the ellipsis. Longer dashes are used to indicate omissions of entire words or pieces of text ( half-dash , sometimes also one-quarter dash).

More functions

  • For the monthly numbering of magazines (e.g. 2017-11 or 11-2017 for November 2017) the quarter-quarter should be used.
  • To save having to repeat superordinate keywords in lists: see sub-quotation marks

Development of typography

Lead type

On this sample sheet with dummy text in different fonts, you can see when enlarged (click several times on the picture) that quarter-quarters did not have a uniform length even in metal type.

In the time of lead typesetting , hyphens and hyphens were the same characters for typesetters and typesetters . Typesetters and printers called this symbol a quarter dash (if it was a short horizontal line) or more generally a divis (a divis can also have another shape, see below).

The term quarter-square does not mean that the short horizontal lines were exactly a quarter-square . Rather, a quarter of an square was roughly the width ( thickness ) of the lead letter for this character. In addition, the square was not a measure of the font height, but the minimum distance between two lines of text. This indirectly results in a rough length measurement for the quarter square in the sense of a “short horizontal line”.

A comparison of different fonts shows that the length of the strokes in relation to the other characters was not uniform, nor was their thickness or height above the baseline . For example, in the illustration on the right, the two hyphens in the second line of the heading are very short and rather heavy. In the French Cannon font (first column), the dividing lines are longer and thinner.

The term divis (from Latin dividere "to share" or divisum "divided") refers to the function of the character as a hyphen or hyphen in the text (the hyphen "divides" a word, as does the hyphen). That is why the oblique double hyphens - the hyphens and hyphens in broken fonts - are also part of the divisions (but not the quarter-quarters). In the figure above, two broken fonts with such a double line as divis can be seen in the right column.


Together with the typewriter , a new character was established that is now known as the hyphen-minus . This "keyboard hyphen" was originally a little longer than an average quarter-quarter dash (divis) and a little shorter than a normal half- quarter dash and a minus sign . The hyphen minus now served as a substitute for these three special dashes outside of the printing industry . In the professional field, various lines were still printed with the optimal length.

There were two reasons for introducing the hyphen minus. On the one hand, typewriters were initially only able to produce non-proportional fonts , that is, the same overall width including the leading and trailing widths was provided for all characters (see illustration under thick ). A usual short divis would have had a clear distance from the neighboring characters, especially from narrow letters (such as ior l). In order to avoid large gaps between the characters, the line was made longer. So it came into question as a replacement not only for the Divis, but also for the two longer lines.

This also made it possible to achieve the second goal: saving keys. In any case, there wasn't enough space on the typewriter for all conceivable special characters and character variants. Keyboards with fewer keys are ergonomically advantageous. The production of typewriters with additional keys for a variety of special characters would also have been very complex and expensive.


Today a hyphen-minus is almost always entered on the computer when a hyphen is to be written, because the hyphen-minus is located directly on the keyboard (unlike the divis). The use of the hyphen-minus is common because

  • the spelling does not differentiate between the typographic characters divis and hyphen-minus;
  • very few know the difference between the various signs;
  • Even those familiar with typography find entering the divis too cumbersome or fear incompatibilities in combination with other application software .

In addition, the clear difference in length between divis and hyphen-minus that existed in the typewriter era is no longer the rule today. On the computer it has become possible, just like in a professional print shop, to write characters and special characters in almost any variety and without significant additional effort, for example the half-square for the correct representation of dashes . This freed the hyphen minus from its role as a “compromise solution” for shorter and longer strokes. For this reason, in many typesetting for the computer it is as short as an original divis from the metal type era.

Typically, fonts for the computer have both hyphen minus and divis as glyphs - usually with certain differences so that the user can choose between two different lines if necessary. What exactly is the difference between hyphen-minus and divis and how pronounced the differences are (if any) depends on the font. The length can be different, as can the thickness of the line, sometimes also the height above the baseline.

There is no general rule as to whether or how the two characters should differ. In some fonts there is no noticeable difference, for example in Arial Unicode MS. If there is a difference in length in a font, the hyphen-minus is usually the longer stroke. This applies, for example, to the font of the source text for Wikipedia articles: The hyphen minus -is significantly longer than divis . However, in the final body of the article, the hyphen minus (-) and divis (-) are both very short; only a difference in thickness can be seen here.

Implementation in computer systems

For historical reasons, there are two different typographic characters used to represent a hyphen (spelling characters, orthographic characters) : divis and hyphen-minus. Hyphens are generated automatically in today's word processing and therefore normally do not have to be entered separately. However, there are two special functions for line breaks : “ non-breaking hyphen ” and “ conditional hyphen ”.

Hyphen / divis


The actually correct character for a "short dash" is the divis , in Unicode U + 2010 hyphen (-). This typographic character is sometimes referred to as a “real hyphen” or “typographic hyphen”. Automatic line breaks are allowed after a hyphen / divis .

In HTML there is no named entity for it, so it has to be specified numerically ( ‐or ‐) unless UTF-8 encoding or the like. is used.

Many free fonts ( free fonts ), especially older ones, is the encoding U + 2010 not occupied. Its use, especially in web typography , therefore remains problematic.

In older ASCII - character set and the character sets of the family of standards ISO 8859 , the character is not included; it is usually not present on computer keyboards either, instead the hyphen-minus , which was introduced as a common character for hyphen, dash and minus sign with the typewriter, is used. The even older hot type had no hyphen minus, there was only the divis.



The hyphen minus (Unicode U + 002D) (-), originally and still occasionally called the middle dash today , was established on the typewriter to enclose both hyphen / divis (-) as an h halftone (-) and minus sign (-) with the same Button to write. So buttons and other mechanical components could be saved. An automatic line break is allowed after a hyphen minus. Most users nowadays use the hyphen minus for all of these lines and their functions, as the different meanings, but also the methods for generating the other lines, are unknown to them or too costly. In some fonts there is only the hyphen minus, but no glyph for the divis. Depending on the intended use of a font, the dash-minus and divis differ greatly or not at all.

-On keyboards with QWERTY keys, the key lies between the dot key .and the right shift key . The minus key in the numeric keypad of keyboards also sets the hyphen minus.

For dashes and dashes, the hyphen minus is often used twice in a row and with no spaces between them, which is, however, often viewed as a typographical sin. This procedure should only be used as an input aid if it triggers an automatic character correction that replaces these two characters with a semicolon.

The dash-minus has the ASCII character set, the character sets of the family of standards ISO 8859 and in the Unicode encoding UTF-8 as a hyphal minus (decimal) the code 45 or 2D (hexadecimal) and can in HTML numerically -or . -are given.

In the first German implementation of the ASCII code or ISO / R646-1967 in DIN 66003 from 1968, the sign was still clearly called “Minus” - at that time, even less thought was given to electronic “ word processing ” (and thus the hyphen) in calculating machines . Nonetheless, the ASCII code emerged as a representation of the characters on a mechanical typewriter.

Protected hyphen


The protected dash (Unicode U + 2011) is used when after a hyphen no automatic line break may occur. An automatic line break is normally allowed after a hyphen / divis or hyphen minus. If a break is to be excluded at this point, a protected hyphen must be used. Typical use cases are words like bowlegs or S-curve : The protected hyphen prevents a separation in which only a single letter would remain at the end of the line.

Conditional hyphen


The conditional hyphen (Unicode U + 00AD), also known as the soft separator , specifies a possible hyphen within a word at which a line break is permitted . If the word is broken at the hyphen, a hyphen appears at the end of the line. If the word is not broken, no hyphen is shown.


│ Dies ist ein Bei-     │
│ spiel- und            │
│ Demonstrationstext    │
│ dafür, dass           │
│ geschützte            │
│ Bindestriche und be-  │
│ dingte Trennstriche   │
│ einem Text den        │
│ i-Punkt aufsetzen, da │
│ ohne sie nicht 100-   │
│ prozentig sauber ge-  │
│ setzte Texte entste-  │
│ hen.                  │
  • - : hyphen minus
  • - : protected hyphen
  • - : conditional hyphen
  • x : Letter that could be preceded by an ineffective conditional hyphen.

(The example text does not use the characters described, it only demonstrates their effect.)


  • Council for German Spelling (Ed.): Official spelling regulation. Section C Spelling with hyphen , version August 1, 2006 (PDF; 740 kB)
  • Peter Gallmann: Syngrapheme in and in word forms. Hyphen and apostrophe in German. In: Peter Eisenberg, Hartmut Günther (Hrsg.): Writing system and orthography. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1989 (Series Germanistische Linguistik 97), pp. 85–110, personal.uni-jena.de (PDF; 48 kB) - thoughts on official spelling.

Web links

Wiktionary: Hyphen  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Hyphens and dashes in Typefacts | Understand typography

Individual evidence

  1. DIN 5008 : 2020-03
  2. Hans-Peter Willberg, Friedrich Forssmann: Lesetypografie , Verlag Hermann Schmidt, Mainz 2010, p. 9: In the glossary, the meanings "hyphen" are given for divis .
  3. In the printed editions of Duden Volume 1: The German spelling is correctly stated that Divis stands for "separation or hyphen" in the printing industry. The meaning given in Duden Volume 5: The Foreign Dictionary (6th edition 1997, p. 200) and on Duden online for Divis is misleading; here only “hyphen” is used as a meaning.
  4. ^ Council for German spelling (ed.): Official spelling regulation. Section C hyphenated letters. ( Valid version August 1, 2006, p. 45 ff. (PDF), accessed April 30, 2014.)
  5. ^ Duden online: hyphen . The indication of the meaning "short slash, which [...] stands for a vacated part of the word" refers to cases such as input and output (=  input and output ), ie to the supplementary hyphen.
  6. Evangelical Hymnal (all editions), No. 450.
  7. Kurt Marti: Why I don't write Christmas stories anymore . In: Walter Jens (Ed.): But it comes to that time . Radius, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-87173-768-2 , p. 304.
  8. Bastian Sick: The misery with the binding line Spiegel Online, November 26, 2003
  9. a b Example: The “idiot blank” is spreading. In: noz.de. Retrieved January 18, 2018 .
  10. For the designation, see Duden online: The supplementary dash has a more general meaning than the special case of the supplementary hyphen .
  11. For use cf. Duden language guide: hyphen as a supplementary line
  12. Around 1990 in Austria in the official telephone directory only in the 3 (name) volumes for Vienna.
  13. Unicode values ​​of the 8859 character sets ftp.unicode.org.