#GrammarTrivia: Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash

Good evening, fellas! We’re going to talk about punctuation today in #GrammarTrivia. I’m going to walk you through three types of dashes—hyphen, en dash, and em dash—and when to use them. So, let’s just cut to the chase!

hyp en em

The hyphen (-) is the shortest dash. We use hyphens to connect words and to indicate breaks in the middle of a word. A hyphen isn’t preceded or followed by space, e.g., upper-case, not upper – case. Since we have touched on the hyphen before, you can click here to read more about the use of the hyphen, and click here for a specific explanation on the role of hyphens in compound adjectives.

The en dash (–) is slightly wider than the hyphen; it’s the size of an upper-case N. Here are some uses of the en dash:

  • To represent a range. It usually replaces “to” between a range of numbers, e.g., page 45 – 53.
  • To report scores or results of contests, e.g., Epiphany won 30–27 against Maxwell.
  • To represent conflict, connection, or direction, e.g., Jakarta–Bandung route, the Obama–McCain debate

The em dash (—) is the widest of the three dashes—it’s the size of an upper-case M. And here are the uses of the em dash:

  •  To replace a colon, for instance, compare these sentences:

The en dash (–) is slightly wider than the hyphen; it’s the size of an upper-case N.

The em dash (—) is the widest of the three dashes—it’s the size of an upper-case M.

  • To replace a pair of commas or parentheses that surround additional information in a sentence. Em dashes emphasize the words inside them a little more than commas and parentheses do. For example, compare the sentences below. The clause the only bag looks more emphasized when we use em dashes, don’t you think?

This is the bag, the only bag, that lasts more than three years.

This is the bag—the only bag—that lasts more than three years.

  • To mark interrupted sentence:

Jack: “Jill, wanna go to —”

Jill: “I already have a plan.”

The spaces preceding and following the en dash and em dash is optional.

This is the bag—the only bag—that lasts more than three years.

This is the bag — the only bag — that lasts more than three years.

Notice the spaces before and after the em dashes in the second sentence? Both of those practices are correct. Whichever style you prefer, use it consistently.

I hope now you understand the difference of those three dashes, fellas. But don’t dash away yet. ;) Here are some handy ways to type the en dash and em dash:

  • In Microsoft Word, assuming the AutoCorrect is turned on, typing ‘space-hyphen-space’ (like – this) will automatically replace the hyphen with an en dash, and typing two hyphens without spaces between two words (like–this) will automatically render an em dash.
  • In a smartphone, you can type an en dash or em dash by long-tapping the hyphen key in the keyboard.

That’s all I can share today, fellas. I hope this has been useful for you. Thank you for joining this #grammarTrivia session. Have a good day!

Compiled and written by @fafafin for @EnglishTips4U on August 25, 2016.

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3 responses to “#GrammarTrivia: Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash

  1. Pingback: #GrammarTrivia: Compound possession | @EnglishTips4U·

  2. Pingback: #EngKnowledge: History of Ampersand | @EnglishTips4U·

  3. Pingback: #EngQuiz: Fix the punctuation | @EnglishTips4U·

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