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Have you ever heard of an en-dash or an em-dash before?

Didn’t think so…

Don’t worry it’s simple and I’m going to teach you a few tricks so you can have perfect hyphenation in your work and impress those writer snobs.

Lets start with a little history. The en-dash is the width of an uppercase ‘N’ metal block letter when individual characters were arranged to create the imprint years ago. Thus the ‘N’ dash name. The em-dash is the same principal with it being the width of an uppercase ‘M’.

Now, when do you use a ­­­­­hyphen, en-dash or em-dash you ask? What’s the difference?

A HYPHEN IS USED TO:

  • connect compound words like, ‘mid-September’
  • show when a word is broken and wraps to another line
  • connect grouped numbers like a phone number, ‘647-893-2078’

AN EN-DASH IS USED TO:

  • indicate a range of numbers like one date to another date, ‘1952–2012’
  • connects words that describe a range such as, ‘April–September 2013’

AN EM-DASH IS USED TO:

  • separate a statement, thought or idea from the main sentence in place of a comma like, “Going to the farmers market—rather than the local grocery store—is always a better option.”
  • show when content has been interrupted such as, “I was going to tell him to—“Please tell me you said it politely?”

How do I insert an en-dash and em-dash into my Microsoft Word documents?

Start with your cursor where you want the dash to appear.

  • For an en-dash press “Alt” + “Hyphen Key” in your numbers panel.
  • For an em-dash press “Alt” + “Shift” + “Hyphen Key”.

And voila! Now you know. So the trick is to practice and teach others the way of the dashes. I wish you luck!