Comparison Of En Dash And Em Dash

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Much like their distant cousins, the colon and semicolon, dashes can be intimidating even to writers who have a good grasp of grammar. Primarily, they act as connectors of words and phrases within a sentence.

The hyphen, en dash and em dash are different lengths, and only the hyphen can be found on your computer keyboard, right next to the zero. The other two are slightly wider and require fancy keystrokes on your PC, like Ctrl+Num Lock – to get the en dash and Alt+Ctrl+Num Lock – for the em dash, both using the numerical keypad.

Before we get into usage, here’s how each one looks: ­­­

Hyphen: ‐

En Dash: –

Em Dash: —

The Hyphen

The smallest of the three symbols, it’s arguably the toughest to master, but at its simplest, the hyphen is
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It is also used between times (10 a.m.–2 p.m.), directions (east–west) and sports scores (15–27).

There is an exception if you are using “from” with “to” and “between” with “and.” Do not use an en dash in that case.

They organized all the files, from A to Z.
My high school years lasted between 2001 and 2005.

Read more about the en dash here.

The Em Dash

The biggest of the three, the em dash can be overused in part because — much like a small child — it often interrupts the flow of a sentence (See? That aside was accurate yet unnecessary). The em dash can take the place of a pair of commas or parentheses to set off nonessential information, or like a colon, it can appear between two related phrases.

We visited the big tourist spots in New York City — such as Times Square and the Empire State Building — and had a great time.
After putting peanut butter on the bread, he realized a hard truth — he was out of jelly.
In AP style, always put a space before and after an em dash. Because an em dash is so dramatic, it should be limited to no more than two instances per sentence. The em dash shouldn’t be used in very many sentences in an article, or it loses its
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