What is this called?

What is this sign b[/b] (used to insert what is missing) called?
I think this (*) is an asterisk, this (_) is an underscore and this (~) is a tilde.
Why isn’t there a dash () on most of the keyboards? Is there a way to create it on a PC?


Thank you, Cristina. When I compare ‘caret’ with ‘carrot’, the lexical transcription shows that both are pronounced alike with the stress on the first syllable. Is it phonetically so?

You’re welcome, Anglophile.

Yes, “caret” [ˈkærət] but also [ˈkærɪt]; “carrot” [ˈkærət].
And here’s one more to add to the non-native speakers’ confusion when it comes to pronunciation and distinguishing spoken words: “carat” [ˈkærət].

But they may all sound slightly different to a native speaker’s ear, I suppose.

Thanks, again. Yes, the word ‘carat’, which is very common here in India, is used to determine the purity of gold. The phonetic distinction is really subtle and confounding, and a non native user is sure to be at a loss in the absence of a leading context.

Hi Cristina,
No, they all sound the same. We need context too.

Hi Anglophile,
I’m going to answer you because I’m not so immature (I use that word because you recently claimed you were not immature) as to ignore you just because you choose to ignore me. I know you won’t thank me, but that’s okay. I’m still happy to have helped:

Many word processing programs will automatically try to change the hyphen into an en-dash or an em-dash as appropriate (providing you get the spacing right).

In Microsoft Word, if the program has selected the wrong one, or if you want to enter it manually, you can do so by using the ;‘insert’ menu and choosing the ‘special characters’ tab, where you will see those options listed.
Default keyboard shortcuts are:
Alt plus Ctrl plus hyphen key that is on the number keypad for an em dash
Alt plus the hyphen key that is on the number keypad for the en dash.

(Additionally, on older versions of Word, if you insert two hyphens, Word turns them into an en dash. On new versions, that doesn’t happen.)

In Word and many additional programs including most browsers, you can use the Alt key in conjunction with a specific sequence of numbers on the number keypad to produce the same effect.
Alt key plus 0150 for an en dash
Alt key plus 0151 for an em dash

So by using those number combinations, it’s possible to do this:

On a Mac computer it is
Option key, plus hyphen key for an en dash.
Option key, plus shift key, plus hyphen key for an em dash.

As for why the options don’t exist on a standard keyboard. I think keyboard manufacturers tend to assume that unless they have particular typesetting needs, people will just use a hyphen to replace the other forms. Something which they are very often correct in assuming and which appears to be leading to the demise of the dash.

I don’t know, but this is something that never ceases to amaze me! :slight_smile:

Thank you, Bev.