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Grammar & Style: Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash

Anonymous asked: What are the differences of -, –, and —? I’m a little confused. Thank you so mucccch!

There are three types of dashes you can use in writing:
  • Hyphen
  • En Dash
  • Em Dash

1) Hyphens are a single dash (-) used to create compound words, like good-natured, or yellow-bellied. They can also be used to separate groups of numbers, such as a phone number (867-5309), and to attach a prefix or suffix to a word, like ex-husband or president-elect. Sometimes they are used to emphasize pronunciation, such as, “Oh, Hannah! That was GLOR-ius, hon-ey!”

2) En dashes are also a single dash, but with a space before and after it ( - ). These are used to show a range between things, such as years (1865 - 1963), temperatures (70 - 80 degrees), months (June - August), even places (New York - San Francisco). Generally, anytime you would use a “to” or “through” to indicate a range. (“I’ll be out of town June through August.” “I’ll be out of town June - August.”)

3) Em dashes are a double dash (–) signify an interruption. They can be used to interrupt a sentence to interject related information (“One of the best things about Forestville in September–aside from the cooler weather–is that there aren’t many tourists.”)  They can also be used to indicate an interruption to dialogue:

“If I’ve told you once–”

“You’ve told me a thousand times, blah blah, I know.”

Em dashes can also be used to show an omission (“Go to the store and talk to Mrs. S– about sending a letter to the town of M–.”) Sometimes interruptions and omissions end with a question mark. (“Isn’t the lack of tourists one of the best things about F–?" "Haven’t I told you already that–?”)