The en dash (–) is the oft-overlooked punctuation that you probably didn’t know you should be using.
Named for its size, it’s roughly the same width of the capital letter N. (Its sister, the em dash, is about the width of the capital letter M.)
Although they look pretty similar, the em dash and the en dash have quite distinct functions. Learn to recognize the difference and use them appropriately to improve your writing.
When to Use an En Dash
This handy little dash is mostly reserved for expressing number ranges or connected words.
Spans of Time or Number Ranges
When indicating spans of time or a range of numbers, use an en dash to separate numbers. In this context, the dash is usually read aloud as “to.”
The scheduled window for the installation is 4:00–6:00 p.m.
You should prepare 4–5 questions for tomorrow’s meeting.
Tonight I need to read pages 52–79 as part of my history homework.
The 2017–2018 school year was one of the most difficult for Katie.
The Eagles beat the Falcons 27–14.
However, note that when you introduce a range or span with the words “from” or “between,” you should use “to” or “and” instead of an en dash.
Incorrect: Barack Obama was President of the United States from 2009–2017.
Correct: Barack Obama was President of the United States from 2009 to 2017.
Here’s another example that highlights the difference:
Incorrect: America’s total wealth more than double between 1920–1929.
Correct: America’s total wealth more than doubled between 1920 and 1929.
To Indicate Connections
The en dash can also be used to indicate a connection or relationship between two words, as well as a direction.
The Republican–Democrat feud in Congress never ends.
The Rome–Los Angeles flight takes approximately 12 hours.
To Express Compound Adjectives
The en dash should be used when connecting terms that contain hyphens themselves, or when using a two-word phrase as a modifier.
The Academy Award–winning director is set to debut his new film in Cannes this May.
The pro-life–pro-choice debate is always a hot issue for voters.
How to Type an En Dash
There are several different ways to form an en dash with your keyboard.
En Dash Alt Code (PC)
While holding down the ALTERNATE key, use the numerical keypad on the right side of your keyboard to enter 0150.
En Dash on Mac
To form an en dash using your Mac, hold down the OPTION key and press the MINUS key.
En Dash HTML
The html codes that can be used to form an en dash are:
Get to Know the En Dash
Use the en dash when expressing number ranges, spans of time, or connected phrases to add more clarity and grammatical accuracy to your writing.
Did you find this post helpful? Do you have any questions about using the en dash? Let us know in the comments below!
If you enjoyed this post, then you might also like:
- The Em Dash: When and How to Use It
- He Said, She Said: Grammar and Options in Dialogue
- Which or That? Grammar Explained
- The 10 Most Common Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
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