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 east–west 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.
- The show will run every Saturday, 10:00 p.m.–11:30 p.m.
- The years 2019–2021 were really challenging for everyone.
- Charlie works 30–40 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.
- The show will run every Saturday from 10:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.
- The years between 2019 and 2021 were really challenging for everyone.
- Charlie works between 30 to 40 hours per week.
You can use the en dash to show the direction of movement or travel.
- The San Fransisco–Dublin–Paris flight takes off at 10:00 a.m.
- The London–Birmingham train leaves in two hours.
The en dash is also used when referring to scores in sports events, votes, or elections.
- Barcelona beat Real Madrid 2–1 last night.
- The house representatives voted 303–132 against the bill.
opposing views, groups, or teams
The en dash can also be used between the words that represent some kind of conflict.
- The Democrat–Republican debate over the future of the U.S.A.
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?
- 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. pre–World 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-elegant–semi-successful party).
- The element you add can be a word, prefix, suffix, or even another hyphenated compound adjective.
- The food has an ice cream–like flavor.
- The non-business–non-pleasure category
- It is a Star Wars–inspired 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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