Em dash vs en dash vs hyphen | Made Simple

A hyphen (-) is a punctuation mark that is used to join parts of a compound word. Dashes such as the en dash (–) and em dash (—) are longer than hyphens and typically indicate a range, a thought, or an interruption in speech.

Hyphen Examples

  • Compound words
    • e.g. part-time, good-looking, funny-smelling, well-known, blog-loving, mother-in-law
  • Numbers
    • e.g. twenty-two, eighty-five, five hundred and forty-five
    • e.g. He is an eleven-year-old boy, but He is eleven years old
  • Suspended modifiers
    • e.g. take a 10- or 20-minute break

BEWARE Over time, hyphenated words can become closed compounds (single words with no hyphens) or open compounds (words made up of two or more existing words separated by a space). e.g. email instead of e-mail and ice cream instead of ice-cream.

En Dash Examples

  • Compound modifiers of multi-word elements
    • e.g. Ariana Grande–style music, pre–World War Two
  • Range of numbers
    • e.g. the meeting is at 10:00–10:30, read pages 10–15, the end score was 2–1
  • Thoughts (parenthetical information)
    • e.g. The old man – who was wearing his usual green sweater and grey trousers – entered the shop.

BEWARE When using an en dash for inserting additional information, you must leave a space either side of the dash.

Em Dash Examples

  • Thoughts (parenthetical information)
    • e.g. The old man—who was wearing his usual green sweater and grey trousers—entered the shop.
  • Amplifying information
    • e.g. The skies were red and all life on the planet was dying—it was the end of the world.
  • Interruption in dialogue
    • e.g. “Don’t go that way! There’s a giant, man-eating—”

How to type the En dash (–) and Em dash (—) on Windows

To insert an en dash (–), use the shortcut key combination “Ctrl”+”Hyphen”

To create an em dash (—), use the shortcut key combination “Ctrl”+”Alt”+”Hyphen”

How to type the En dash (–) and Em dash (—) on Mac

To insert an en dash (–), use the shortcut key combination “Option”+”Hyphen”

To create an em dash (—), use the shortcut key combination “Option”+”Shift”+”Hyphen”

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