All You Need To Know About En Dash & Em Dash
When writing, you surely use your punctuation marks responsible. You don’t add too many question marks to your questions, or overuse the exclamation mark. You know how to use your comma and when to use a semicolon. Hyphens, apostrophes, and ellipses are no problem for you. But have you ever heard of the “brothers” of the hyphen; en dash and em dash?
If not, this is the perfect article for you to get a quick overview what these dashes are used for! Read on to find out what’s the difference between the two and how you can use/insert them using your word processing software.
The En Dash
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En dash is the slightly wider “brother” of the hyphen, yet it is narrower than the em dash. Generally speaking, the en dash is used to combine, connect, or set items into proportion. It is used for:
Range of numbers
The en dash is used to represent a span of time or dates, or a range of numbers. It is used without any space in between the numbers and the en dash, and omitted when the sentence contains a “from … to” or “between … and” formulation. In these contexts, the en dash is read as “through” or “to”.
For tomorrow, please read chapters 1–5. My office hours are from Monday to Wednesday, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.
For tomorrow, please read the information from chapters 1 to 5. My office hours are from Monday to Wednesday, between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
Game scores or contest results are also written with an en dash and no space in between the numbers and the punctuation mark.
The final World Cup score between Germany and Argentina was 1–0.
Indicating a conflict, connection, or direction
Between words that denote a conflict, direction, or connection, it is also common to use the en dash (without spaces).
A delay has to be expected for the London–Paris flight.
The Em Dash
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The em dash is the widest “brother” of both the hyphen and the en dash. It is very versatile as it can replace several punctuation marks like commas, colons, or parentheses in different contexts.
While the en dash is used without spaces, the em dash can be used with spaces as well, depending on the used style guide.
To enhance readability, two commas can be replaced by em dashes. However, they ad extra emphasis to the enclosed section of the sentence as the commas would usually do.
When he saw her again—something he had been waiting for impatiently since their last call—his heart skipped a beat.
Content that is usually set apart by parentheses can also be indicated using the em dash. However, the em dash draws more attention to the content in between. If you want to be more subtle, stay with the parentheses. If you want to draw attention to the enclosed content, however, using em dashes is a good stylistic way to do so.
When Martha's favorite cat—she owned a total of 23 of them—got sick, she wasted no time bringing it to the best and well-known vet in town.
In less formal environments, a colon can also be replaced by an em dash, when it is used to denote the conclusion of a sentence. In formal writing, however, the colon should be used instead.
After this day, Marty knew one thing for sure—if he would ever move away from New York, his new home would have to be Paris!
Multiple em dashes
When multiple em dashes are used consecutive, they often indicate that part of the word is missing. This can be because the part is unknown or purposely omitted. The multiple em dashes can also be used to indicate that an entire word is missing from a sentence. However, do not use as many em dashes as letters missing and stay consistent throughout your writing.
"I pretty much f—— up, didn't I?", Alex asked his superior.
The supposed predator, ———, was convicted by the state of Illinois yesterday.
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