Punctuation Marks: en dash

En dash

The en dash is longer than the hyphen and shorter than the em dash. It is called en dash because it should be the same width as the letter N. We usually use this punctuation mark to show range, score, connection, direction, or compound adjective and read as to or through depending on the context. It is also important to know that there should be no space between the en dash and the items on each side.

Question 1: What is the difference between a hyphen and an en dash other than their size?

Answer: In our guide to the hyphen, we have discussed, in detail, when you should use a hyphen. But here is the short answer:

The hyphen connects two items that are closely related. In other words, the words that are joined by a hyphen function as a single concept (e.g. error-free, two-thirds)

The en dash, on the other hand, connects two items that are usually related to each other by distance, as in the eastwest railway. Continue reading for more details.

Question 2: How can I type the en dash on my computer?

Answer: If you are a Mac user, you can type it using Option + Minus (-); and if you have windows OS, type Ctrl + Minus (-).

Ranges of time, dates, and other numbers

As mentioned before, we use the en dash to refer to the distance between the two items.


  1. The show will run every Saturday, 10:00 p.m.⁠11:30 p.m.
  2. The years 20192021 were really challenging for everyone.
  3. Charlie works 30⁠40 hours per week.

Note: If you introduce the range with from, the word to should be used instead of the en dash. Similarly, if you use between, you should use and instead.


  1. The show will run every Saturday from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
  2. The years between 2019 and 2021 were really challenging for everyone.
  3. Charlie works between 30⁠ to 40 hours per week.


You can use the en dash to show the direction of movement or travel.


  1. The San FransiscoDublinParis flight takes off at 10:00 a.m.
  2. The LondonBirmingham train leaves in two hours.


The en dash is also used when referring to scores in sports events, votes, or elections.


  1. Barcelona beat Real Madrid 21 last night.
  2. The house representatives voted 303132 against the bill.

opposing views, groups, or teams

The en dash can also be used between the words that represent some kind of conflict.


  1. The DemocratRepublican debate over the future of the U.S.A.

Compound adjectives

A hyphen is usually used to form a hyphenated compound adjective regardless of how many words it has (e.g. award-winning actor, three-year-old daughter). However, The Chicago Manual of Style says, “The en dash can be used in place of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of its elements consists of an open compound or when both elements consist of hyphenated compounds.” What does this mean?

It means:

  • When you add another word or element to an open compound adjective like World War II, you can use an en dash to join them (e.g. preWorld War II).
  • When you add another word or element to a hyphenated compound adjective, as in a semi-elegant party, you can use an en dash (e.g. a semi-elegantsemi-successful party).
  • The element you add can be a word, prefix, suffix, or even another hyphenated compound adjective.

More examples:

  1. The food has an ice creamlike flavor.
  2. The non-businessnon-pleasure category
  3. It is a Star Warsinspired fantasy.

Note: The use of the en dash tells the reader that the added element is part of a compound adjective, not just the one word it is connected to; For example, if someone is not familiar with Star Wars fantasy, they might think that Star Wars-inspired fantasy is a kind of fantasy that is inspired by wars, not Star Wars.

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