Liz here. By popular demand (i.e. one of you asked, and I thank you for that), here’s a post about the counterpart to the em dash and the hyphen. Let’s get to know the en dash.

En Dash

Photo by Jeremy Keith

Fun fact: the reason the en and em dashes have those names are because of their lengths. An em dash is about the length of the letter m, and an en dash (surprise) is the length of the letter n. Isn’t that fun? Now you have a conversation starter for cocktail parties.

The en dash is used when connecting ranges, and it replaces “to” in those ranges. You might have relatives aged 2–52, or a flight to catch from Austin–Detroit, or a baseball game that your team wins 4–2. In all of those circumstances, you would be using an en dash.

Do you think you have the hyphen, en dash, and em dash under control? Let’s find out.

PRACTICE

Write for fifteen minutes about someone running to catch a flight. Use hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes to describe what caused the delay, where they’re going, what bar they’re going to when they finally get to their destination. (Note: The comments box may not be able to distinguish between the three. Feel free to use a word processor and paste as needed.)

Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman

Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she’s not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.