Do you know the difference between a ‘hyphen’, an ‘en dash’ and an ’em dash’? Many people have never heard of ‘en’ and ’em dashes’ but alas, they exist and using them can sometimes be a little bit complicated because some style guides differ on their use.
Below, you’ll find a brief and basic definition of what each ‘dash’ is and why it is used.
A ‘hyphen’ is a short, horizontal line used to join words together to when they have a similar meaning or are linked in the grammar of a sentence. For example:
‘fun-loving’ or ‘wedding-crasher’.
It’s also used to separate the syllables of a single word, for example:
‘a-ma-zing!’ or to join a double-barrelled last name
The En Dash
An ‘en dash’ is a horizontal line which is slightly longer than a ‘hyphen’ and usually the width of the letter ‘n’. It is used to indicate a range of values, and it can often be used instead of the words ‘through’ and ‘to’. For example:
‘June–August are often said to be the warmest months’ or ‘take a deep breath and count from 1–10’.
It can also be used to show a relationship between two things, for instance:
An ‘en dash’ can be created in Microsoft Windows by enabling ‘NUMLOCK’ on the number keypad and holding the alt key while pressing 0150 (alt+0150)
The Em Dash
An ’em dash’ is a horizontal line which is longer than an ‘en dash’ and is the width of the letter ‘m’. It can be used to show an abrupt change in thought for example:
‘I was thinking about going fishing tomorrow — hey get your hands off my fries!’
At times it can be used instead of a colon, instead of rounded brackets or to attribute the source of a quote, and when used in dialogue it can be used to show an interruption. For instance:
‘So are we going to the cinema tomorrow ni—’
‘Yes, I’ve already said so!’
The ’em dash’ can be created in Microsoft Windows by enabling ‘NUMLOCK’ on the number keypad and holding the alt key and pressing 0151 (alt+0151)
As always, thanks for reading if you did!
Until next time,
© 2018 GLT