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How to use an En Dash correctly when writing

En dashes are short dashes that show the range between two figures.

Beth Taylor
Beth Taylor

Punctuation can be hard to get your head around, and this is most definitely the case with dashes and hyphens. Did you know that the term “dash” encompasses several different types of dashes?

What is the en dash

En dashes are short dashes that show the range between two figures. They are longer than hyphens but shorter than em dashes. The name “en dash” comes from its length; it is the width of the uppercase letter N, while an em dash is the width of the letter M. You do not need a space before or after an en dash.

When to use an en dash

En dashes are primarily used to show a range of numbers or a period of time.

If you can replace the dash with the word “to,” you need to use an en dash. However, do not use one with the word “from.” When using “from,” you should pair it with “to” rather than substitute it for an en dash.

En-dash examples

Your homework is to read pages 89–96 of the textbook
The hotel won’t cost more than $50–60 per night
We won the soccer game 3–1
I’m flying London–Paris on New Year’s Eve
There must’ve been 500–600 people at the rally

The dash between the dates

When writing out the date, we can use either a slash, a dot, or a hyphen. An example using hyphens is 2000-12-25. As mentioned above, the en dash is employed between numbers or values, so we must use an en dash when writing about the time between two dates. Other values that require an en dash are ages, days, and times.

En dash examples with dates

World War One took place in 1914–18
The show is running December 5–10 this year
This class is suitable for children ages 10–12
I work in the office Monday–Friday
Employees mustn’t work more than 30–40 hours per week

How to type “–”

An en dash can be typed on a Mac computer using the keys Option+Minus. Similarly, in a Microsoft Word document, press Ctrl+Minus. If you’re using a Windows computer, hold down the Alt key and type 0150. Alternatively, you can insert all kinds of dashes and hyphens using the symbol menu.

En dash vs. hyphen

A hyphen is shorter than an en dash; it is the shortest dash type. It is mainly used to link words together, as with compound adjectives. Compound adjectives are two adjectives that are joined together to modify the same noun collectively. These words are joined with a hyphen.

Hyphen examples:

My son is a blond-haired, blue-eyed boy
It’s only a two-minute walk to the store
My boss is a bad-tempered woman
My mother-in-law is very kind
Here’s an up-to-date version of the report

To summarize, hyphens join two words together, such as compound adjectives, while en dashes are used between two numbers or values to show range.

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