Hyphens and Dashes: En Dash
The en dash, although you might not know it, is used a lot in writing. There isn’t really a key for it like there is for the hyphen, but there is a combination of keys like there is for the em dash. (Thank you to one of my readers who revealed that awesome bit of information.)
En Dash (–) Keyboard code for Windows: alt + 0150 Keyboard code for Apple: option + – (option then minus sign)
An en dash is similar to the hyphen in size, and the two are typically interchanged with numbers, including time. When you are talking about a range of numbers, you’ll more than likely use an en dash. People get away with using hyphens, but they don’t mean the same thing. That said, you should know when not to use them.
Lesson One: en dashes are used to imply spans of time or numeric value, not as a cheat on a keyboard. An easy way to identify this, according to The Punctuation Guide, is to avoid using an en dash when using “from” or “between.”
Our limit will be between 10 to 40 people.
They won 45–0 without subbing a single player.
From 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., I’ll be unavailable because I work.
Honestly, ranges such as “between _ and _” or “from _ to _” can refer to style. As interchangeable as en dashes are, it doesn’t matter too much whether you avoid using them in “between” and “from” spans of time or numeric value. However, you should keep in mind that en dashes are like manners. If you want to have good manners, you’ll use them when needed, and not when you just want to be lazy. (It’s exhausting to type those extra letters!) And there is an interesting thing that helps you decide when to use these manners, which you’ll see here in a bit so keep reading.
When to use en dashes
En dashes are used in many things, including:
- dates (1998–2007 or December 15–17)
- bullets (in place of bullet points, you can use en dashes or even em dashes)
- anything connected within a span of time
If you’ll notice, I bolded “span” for the last bullet. This is why. I said, above, that the hyphen and en dash are interchangeable, but there is a time and place for each. Take this example below:
He’ll be here Tuesday-Thursday.
He’ll be here Tuesday–Thursday.
You might not know it, but those mean two different things. When we discussed hyphens in last week’s post, hyphens were used to connect words into compound adjectives. This means they are one word. This is similar to saying “He’ll be here Tuesday or Thursday.” Weird, huh? That’s where a nice little “/” comes in, but that’s what the hyphen would represent. In the second sentence, however, the en dash covers every day in between: Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. He’ll be there on every one of those days.
Lesson Two: While the hyphen represents a connection, an en dash can represent a connection, as well as what’s shared within the connection.
The tricky part with en dashes is…
Hyphens. People use hyphens instead of en dashes all the time. I do too. But realize that en dashes cover an expanse–an all-inclusive span or range that covers both subjects, as well as those unmentioned that follow between them both. It’s confusing, but it’s a learning process. This is a short post because, in the end, en dashes are representative of something that can be written as a word. But like all symbols, this one means something and who are you to say that this little guy isn’t important? He’s important. You should know who En Dash is. He does a lot for you even when you don’t know it.
I won’t have an en dash quiz because it’ll be too difficult to see a difference between the hyphen and the en dash. Next week, I’ll have an article about em dashes. That quiz will cover more because em dashes are important! So subscribe to The Writer Scrolls and check your emails next Friday or Saturday!
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