BlogGrammar RulesEn Dash: What It Is and How to Use It

En Dash: What It Is and How to Use It

how to use en dashes

Who knew there was more than one type of dash? Oh, and did we mention that each one has a specific time and place to be used? Today we are looking at the en dash.

Contents:
  1. What Is an En Dash and When Should It Be Used?
  2. How Do You Use an En Dash in a Sentence?
  3. Do You Use a Hyphen or an En Dash Between Words?
  4. Why Is It Called an En Dash?
  5. What Is the Difference Between a Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash?
  6. How Do You Type an En Dash on the Keyboard?
  7. Using Editing Software to Check Your En Dashes
  8. Try ProWritingAid’s Editor for Yourself

What Is an En Dash and When Should It Be Used?

An en dash is slightly wider than a hyphen but smaller than an em dash.

Most often, an en dash is used to represent a range of numbers, dates, or a time frame. You should not leave a space between the words or numbers when using an en dash.

You can also use an en dash to combine words, such as in compound adjectives.

How Do You Use an En Dash in a Sentence?

An en dash is used to show a span of time or a range of numbers like the score in a football game.

Generally, the en dash reads as “to” or “through” when read out loud. However, if you use words like “from” or “between” in your sentence, you should write out “to” or “and” rather than using an en dash.

Here’s an example:

Incorrect: Queen Elizabeth I reigned from 1558–1603.
Correct: Queen Elizabeth I reigned 1558–1603.
Correct: Queen Elizabeth I reigned from 1558 to 1603.

Below we’ve provided further examples to help you understand how to use an en dash properly in your writing.

en-dash uses and examples in a table

Showing Number and Date Ranges

The en dash can be used to show number ranges.

Example: The professor assigned pages 118–130 as our required reading over the winter holiday.

It can also be used for date spans. Just remember not to use “from” or “between” with the en dash date span.

Incorrect: The Golden Age of Piracy was from 1650–1730.
Correct: The Golden Age of Piracy was 1650–1730.
Correct: The Golden Age of Piracy was from 1650 to 1730.

Days of the week and months of the year follow the same rule.

Incorrect: The road will be under construction between August–October.
Correct: The road will be under construction August–October.
Correct: The road will be under construction between August and October.

The “from/between” rule can be a tricky to remember. Fortunately, you don’t have to. ProWritingAid’s real time grammar checker will prompt you if you use an en dash incorrectly:

correcting en dash use in the piracy example above Publish with confidence (and keep expert grammarians happy) with ProWritingAid.

Writing Time Spans and Scores

The en dash can be used with time spans, following the same rules as date spans.

Incorrect: The cable repair man is expected between 11:00am–3:00pm.
Correct: The cable repair man is expected 11:00am–3:00pm.
Correct: The cable repair man is expected between 11:00am and 3:00pm.

The en dash can also be used for sports scores.

Example: The Cubs beat the Bears with a final score of 21–3.

Phone Numbers

While an en dash can be used in writing out a phone number, it is not necessary to use an en dash over a regular hyphen in this case. However, an en dash appears used more often when the area code is in parenthesis.

Example: (951) 555–4545

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Do You Use a Hyphen or an En Dash Between Words?

This depends on the situation. When you are looking to represent a conflict, connection, or even directions, you should use an en dash, for example:

  • The state–federal law conflict will remain an issue for the cannabis industry.
  • The California–Florida flight leaves in two hours.
  • Interstate 10 runs east–west across the United States.

Joining Compound Adjectives

Another time you might choose to use an en dash between words is for compound adjectives. Most of the time, however, this is an aesthetic choice and proper grammar does not require that you use an en dash instead of hyphen in these situations.

Correct (with en-dash): The award–winning screenwriter landed another gig.
Correct (with hyphen): The award-winning screenwriter landed another gig.

Combining Names: Hypen or En Dash?

When combining names—usually last names—whether you use a hyphen or an en dash depends on the context.

For example, in the case of two names belonging to different individuals who share credit for something, you would use an en dash:

Example: Einstein–Rosen Bridge

On the other hand, if you’ve just gotten married and you are combining your maiden name with your new surname, then you will use a hyphen:

Example: Julia Granowicz-Johnson

Why Is It Called an En Dash?

It might surprise you to find out that en dashes and em dashes have relatively simple reasons behind their names. The en dash is supposed to be the width of a capital N, while an em dash is the width of a capital M.

graphic showing N and M and en dash and em dash

What Is the Difference Between a Hyphen, En Dash, and Em Dash?

There are subtle differences between hyphens and dashes, most notably the size of the line itself. However, this is not the only defining factor. It can be hard to know when you should use a regular old hyphen, let alone throwing other dashes into the mix.

Hyphens are used for compound words like self-esteem. We also use hyphens to combine words like e-mail and e-book (though these phrases often evolve into non-hyphenated compound words, like email and eBook, which are also technically correct).

You’ll also use a hyphen when writing numbers out as words. For example, seventy-two or forty-five is correct, where seventytwo or forty five would be incorrect.

The en dash and em dash have specific purposes. En dashes are used to separate specific values or words and to write compound adjectives, as we’ve shown in the examples above. An em dash—the longer of the two dashes—is used like a comma to separate one thought from another in the same sentence.

Want to know more about using en dashes, em dashes, and hyphens correctly? Check out our complete guide (with examples).

How Do You Type an En Dash on the Keyboard?

Unlike a hyphen, your keyboard doesn’t have a button that allows you one-keystroke-access to the en dash. Depending on the type of computer you have and the word processor that you are using, you’ll need to use a keyboard shortcut.

This is one of the reasons that people will often choose to replace an en dash with a regular hyphen whenever possible.

On a Windows PC or laptop using Microsoft Word, you can create an en dash by pressing control and the minus key on your number pad to create an en dash.

Another option on Windows, when you are not in Microsoft Word or a similar app, is to hold down Alt and type 0150 on your numeric keypad if you have one.

en dash keyboard shortcuts

If you are using a Mac PC or laptop, press Option and the hyphen key to create an en dash.

The only time it doesn’t matter whether you prefer a PC or a Mac is when you’re using Google Docs rather than Microsoft Word, Open Office, or a similar word processor. Google Docs doesn’t offer a keyboard shortcut for en dashes automatically.

You do have the option to create a keyboard shortcut yourself if you plan to use it often enough. But otherwise, you will need to choose “Insert” and then choose “Special Characters” and find the en dash (or whatever other special character you want) in the list.

Want to type an en-dash directly into the HTML of a web page? The above shortcuts won’t work there. You’ll need to write the HTML character entity reference, which for an en dash is rather than typing out the dash itself.

Using Editing Software to Check Your En Dashes

These days, most word processors come with a built-in grammar checker that does a fairly good job at keeping us on our toes and our writing looking clean. However, sometimes these programs within applications like Microsoft Word aren’t on their own enough to watch out for everything.

ProWritingAid helps you refine and polish your writing. You can find ProWritingAid’s suggestions in your browser and in Word, so you can use dashes perfectly wherever you write.

With ProWritingAid, you’ll never need to worry that you haven’t used an en dash properly (or whether you accidentally used an em dash or hyphen instead).

correct dashes with prowritingaid

No one expects you to have perfect grammar first time—even the best copy editors make mistakes. We’re human and it’s bound to happen. So, avoid overthinking the differences between a hyphen, en dash, or em dash and let software do that work for you.

Try ProWritingAid’s Editor for Yourself


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Julia Granowicz-Johnson

Julia Granowicz-Johnson

Freelance Writer

Julia Granowicz-Johnson is a freelance writer from Florida and has been selling her words for a living since 2014. As a staff writer for The Marijuana Times she educates the masses on medical cannabis, legalization and activism efforts. As a freelance copywriter she helps businesses of all sizes succeed in captivating and converting their audience to long-term customers.

www.rjcreativeservices.com

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