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In order to avoid its being confused with the equals sign=, the double hyphen is often given as double oblique hyphen in modern typography. The double hyphen is also not to be confused with two consecutive hyphens (--), which are often used to represent an em dash-- or en dash-; that practice arose due to the limitations of typewriter character sets which did not have both hyphen and dash.
Double hyphen appearance in several Fraktur typefaces
Double oblique hyphens (besides ordinary hyphens) used in a Hittite dictionary
The double hyphen is used for several different purposes throughout the world:
Some typefaces, such as Fraktur faces, use the double hyphen as a glyphic variant of the single hyphen. (With Fraktur faces, such a double hyphen is usually, but not necessarily oblique.)
It may be also used for artistic or commercial purposes to achieve a distinctive visual effect. For example, the name of The Waldorf=Astoria hotel was officially written with a double hyphen from 1949 to 2009.
In Merriam-Webster dictionaries if a word is divided at the end of the line, and the division point happens to be a hyphen, it is replaced with a double hyphen to graphically indicate that the divided word is normally hyphenated, for example cross? country.
In several dictionaries published in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, all such compound words are linked with double hyphens, whether at the end of the line or not, and the normal use of the single hyphen for non-compound words is retained. An example from the first or second page of such dictionaries is Aaron's?rod. Examples include the Century Dictionary and Funk & Wagnalls New Standard Dictionary of the English Language.
It is used by Coptic language scholars to denote the form of the verb used before pronominal suffixes, e.g. ? kot= 'to build'.
It is used as a distinct punctuation mark in Ojibwe language publications in the Fiero Roman orthography, as a hyphen is used to separate compound preverb units regardless of their line position, while a double hyphen is used to divide a word at the end of a line and can be treated as a soft hyphen. However, due to lack of availability of a double hyphen in most fonts, an equal sign is often used as a substitute.
In Ojibwe, Cree and other languages using Unified Canadian syllabics, as final c ( ? )--encoded as CANADIAN SYLLABICS FINAL SHORT HORIZONTAL STROKE (U+1428)--resembles a hyphen, a double hyphen (?) named CANADIAN SYLLABICS HYPHEN (U+1400) is used to distinguish the punctuation from the syllabics letter.
In Japanese, the double hyphen (?, daburu haifun) in rare cases replaces an English en dash or hyphen when writing foreign words in katakana due to their potential confusion with the prolonged sound mark (?). It may be used to separate a person's given and family names, such as transcribing the name of Galileo Galilei as=?. The middle dot (?) is however much more commonly used for these purposes. (For foreign names that include both spaces and hyphens, both the middle dot and double hyphen may appear together as in Catherine Zeta-Jones?=.) The double hyphen is part of the JIS X 0213 standard, but is not included in more commonly used character encodings, such as Shift-JIS and EUC-JP. For this reason, the equals sign is frequently used in its place.
In Volapük the double oblique hyphen (teilamalül) has to be used instead of the simple hyphen (yümamalül) to cut a word at the end of a line or in the compound words.
Stylistic variant of the single hyphen
When the double hyphen is used as a functionally equivalent graphical variant (allograph) of the single hyphen, it has the same Unicodecode point as a conventional hyphen (since how it is displayed/printed is a font choice on that occasion).
^Hans G. Güterbock, Harry A. Hoffner, Theo P. J. van den Hout: The Hittite Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (CHD), volume L-N, Chicago (USA) 1989, ISBN0-918986-58-3, p. 355. - Detail of the left border of the second column.