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En Dash (–) | Explained With Examples

Particularly smaller than an Em dash (—) and considerably bigger than a traditional hyphen (-) The En dash (–) is a punctuation mark that is named for its width that resembles the letter “N” in typography, there used to be times where you would find this special character on keyboard shortcuts but nowadays on traditional keyboards, it seems to be missing. Although, you could recreate it by typing two hyphens with no spaces before or after (—).

There’s no doubt that En Dash (—) lies between the two siblings as being the middle child, but it certainly helps drastically in the readability and clarity of the writing it is used in, whether it is casual or professional writing material.

How to Use the En Dash: Key Functions

While there are limited use cases for En Dash, nevertheless, there are some fundamental instances where you could use it. Here is how,

Citation For Sources

One of the fundamental features of En dashes is that they can be used as a great referencing tool to indicate the range of pages within a source. In other words, if you are looking to find something within a book, using this punctuation mark can easily allow you to find it, as long as you have the numbers that indicate the range.

“Pages 24–37”

Parenthetical Statements

Sometimes you want to slip in an extra bit of info in a sentence, but it shouldn’t disrupt the flow too much. That’s where the En dash comes in handy! Think of it like a smoother, gentler version of parentheses. For example, instead of sounding all choppy like ‘Your friend (who just ran a marathon last week) is already planning their next race.’, you can say “Your friend–who just ran a marathon last week–is already planning their next race.” See how the En dash lets that extra bit about the anniversary slide right in?”

Alternative Options

In some scenarios where the reader is often left with a choice, using En choice can refine the sentence to a certain degree. It can even be used instead of the common conjunction ‘or’. Which in some instances isn’t suitable to the context that is being used. 

For instance, consider replacing ‘You can choose red or blue’ with ‘You can choose red–blue’. In this way, a unit of sentence feels so much unique and profound, all while having a subtle shift to it.

Indicating Ranges

Just like referencing the source within a set of pages, En dashes can also be used to enhance your essay or article and make it much more tidy in a formal sense.

For instance, ‘The event will take place from July 10th to July 15th’ feels a bit wordy and all over the place, while ‘The event will take place July 10th–15th’ looks sleek and is easier to read at a glance.” 

Connecting Words

While this use case is quite rare and only used in some scenarios, nevertheless, it can still make your sentences much more engaging and provide precision regardless of the theme of the writing.

Because sometimes, regular hyphens don’t seem enough, in that case, you can use an En dash (—) to create compound adjectives. Instead of writing award-winning, you could opt out for award–wining, to make it look more resounding. 

Bridge Creator

In some scenarios, you might have come across whether or not a piece of work is more of one artist’s style or another’s, well in those instances, the En dash smooths things over.  Instead of the clunky “The Shakespeare or Marlowe debate”, we get the more balanced “Shakespeare–Marlowe debate”. It acknowledges both influences.

On the other hand, the en dash helps avoid misinterpretations, especially with places or locations such as “The Boston Chicago flight” which sounds like there’s some weird merged mega-city happening. But once the en dash punction mark is used between “The Boston–Chicago flight” it makes so much sense.

Common Mistakes For En Dashes (—) 

  • Some publications and professors have their own little “en dash code”. You should double-check those style guides before submitting work.
  • Overusing an en dash just dilutes the punch it has, so make sure you use it only where it’s necessitated.
  • Avoid using hyphens and en dashes interchangeably even though both of them do look the same. Both of these punctuation marks have their purpose to serve.

The Major Difference Between Hyphen Differs From En Dash

In simpler and more profound words, the job of the hyphen(-) is to glue words together that correlate with each other. On the other hand, an en dash (—) Shows links and clarifies ranges. In writing material, a hyphen only works its magic on a surface level to form a single concept but an en dash provides a much deeper bond to the reader, making it have much more value in general.

Can you use an en dash to separate clauses?

Although, in technical terms, you could do it, it’s highly discouraged because logically using an en dash to separate clauses can make the sentence harder to parse at a glance for the reader as naturally, they are more accustomed to seeing commas, semi-colons, or em dashes for this purpose.

Can I use an en dash in informal writing?

Yes, you can, there is no specific restriction that prevents En dash from being used other than formal writing, however, make sure you are mindful of the placement otherwise it could create unnecessary redundancy, especially in passages.

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