En Dash (–) When to Use an En Dash (N Dash)

En Dash (–) What is the symbol (–) called? Learn how and when to use an en dash in English with useful rules and examples. The rules for using an en-dash are less fixed than for other kinds of punctuation, and some fonts are missing this character altogether. It is less commonly used than the hyphen or the em dash.

The En Dash (–)

What is an en dash?

The en dash (–) is longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash. It is called n dash because in some traditional fonts, it is as wide as the letter “n.”

An en-dash is generally used in two situations. First, it may be used to indicate a range—of numbers, of distances, or of times—between two terms. Second, n-dash replaces a hyphen if one of the terms connected by the dash contains more than one word. Let’s look at these two cases in more detail.

When to use an en dash

  1. The en dash is used to indicate a range between two terms. It often replaces the word “to.”

Examples:

  • Lecture session I: 9–11 a.m.
  • Lunch: 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
  • Top speed for this motorcycle is from 140–160 kph.
  • Electric cars will run from 200–400 miles on a single charge, depending on conditions.
  • Plan to spend 4–6 hours climbing the mountain.
  • He won the election by a 60–40 percent margin.

In phone text messages, you can indicate an en-dash by using a hyphen and putting a space on either side of it.

  • I’ll be in the meeting from 9 – 11 a.m.
  • He said 4 – 6 hours was about as fast as we could expect for the repair.

2) The n dash in compounds where one of the terms contains more than one word. This is done to increase readability—the dash draws the eye to the terms that are being connected.

Examples:

  • The Chicago–New York route
  • The Nobel Prize–winning writer
  • It was a state university–private school rivalry.
  • He specializes in French New Wave–related film history.
  • In the post–World War II era, many countries experienced new prosperity.

Exception: If one of the terms contains a hyphen, hyphens are generally used in the compound—not en dashes.

  • The bridge is safe. It was a non-load-bearing column that was damaged.

Specialized uses of the en dash

In most style guides, the n dash is recommended only for the two uses above. You may see the en dash in two other situations, however.

1) In some styles, an en dash may be used where an em dash would normally go. In this case, the en-dash should have a space on either side.

  • Five of us – Susan, Jeremy, Ian, Carlene, and Courtney – will be working on the project.
  • I’ll tell you one thing – the new boss is tough, but she’s fair.

2) In some styles, the n-dash is used in compounds to connect pairs of names.

  • The Hawley–Smoot tariff was among the causes of the Great Depression.
  • The Thatcher–Major Conservative Party dominated British politics in the 1980s.

Most publications, especially online, will avoid these uses of the n dash, which is not always rendered properly in online documents.

(–) En Dash Infographic

En Dash (–) When to Use an En Dash (N Dash)

 

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