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Hyphen—En Dash—Em Dash
Do you know when you should use a hyphen vs en dash vs em dash? Maybe you've never heard the terms en dash or em dash. Let's see if we can learn what they are and when they should be used according to the Chicago Manual of Style.
The hyphen (-) connects two things that are intimately related, usually words that function together as a single concept or work together as a joint modifier (e.g. tie-in, toll-free call, two-thirds).
The en dash (–) is used to connect things that are related to each other by distance, such as years (e.g., 2010–12 or 2010–2012) or pages in an index (e.g., 147–49 or 147–149) or months (e.g., May–September).
The em dash (—) has several uses. In a manner similar to parentheses, it can allow for an additional thought to be added within a sentence by breaking away from that sentence—like this. The em dash is also used for interrupted speech. “I wasn’t trying to imply—” “Then just what were you trying to do?” Also, the em dash may serve as a sort of bullet point, as in this list of alt codes:
—Alt 0150 = en dash (–)
—Alt 0151 = em dash (—)
—Option Hyphen = en dash (–)
—Shift Option Hyphen = em dash (—)
(You create the en dash by holding down the alt key and while using your 10-key type 0150. To create the em dash, do the same except you would use 0151. On a MAC, hold down the Option and the Shift key and then press the hyphen key.)
According to CMoS, the hyphen, en dash, and em dash should NOT have spaces before or after them.
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