JS Tip 305: Dashes and Hyphens

Tips from Jefferson Smith Training and Consulting

** From the Writing Workshops: Em Dashes, En Dashes, and Hyphens

Em dashes are longer than en dashes; en dashes are longer than hyphens.

Use em dashes to separate a word or a group of words from the rest of the sentence (similar to commas or parentheses):

Three infielders—Tinker, Evers, and Chance—made the team. Three infielders, Tinker, Evers, and Chance, made the team. Three infielders (Tinker, Evers, and Chance) made the team.

All are correct. Each establishes a distance from the surrounding sentence: the commas a slight distance, the dashes a medium distance, the parentheses a greater distance. You decide what you’d like.

Use an en dash to connect numbers:

Medfield College defeated Faber 98–96. Pages 12–14 explain the flux capacitor. The legislature voted 201–4 to pass the banking bill.

Use a hyphen to connect compound adjectives or separate syllables or names:

Free-range livestock roam without being fenced in. Send the file to Angela Smith-Kirby.

Notice: No space on either side of the dashes or the hyphen. No space. None.

If you have questions, let us know.

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