Thus spake Robert Elz:
It is perhaps worth noting that \- is not an "escaped hyphen" it is a minus
sign (which is wider, and typically thicker and positioned higher, than a
The issue which is not so clear is whether the '-' that introduces options
on unix commands, and is used various other places (like scan last:-10)
is really intended to be a hyphen, a minus, or some other kind of dash.
The one on the scan example given is most likely a minus, but in "ls -l"
(or "scan -width") it might really be an "n dash" that is intended (a
minus would appear a little too high to look good.)
This isn't helped by the fact that some people read out "ls -l" as
"ell ess dash ell" and others as "ell ess minus ell" (I don't recall
ever hearing "ell ess hyphen ell" but someone has probably said that.)
No-one has ever been too concerned about this, as when we type (in ascii)
there is but one character to use for all purposes (other than that sometimes
we use it twice to simulate an "m dash",) but when typesetting, it makes
I have no idea if there is an established convention used by the unix
book publishing industry.
Anything from which people might copy and paste to the command line
SHOULD use the actual characters which need to be typed. (I might even
go as strong as MUST here, depending on the day...)
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