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A dash is a punctuation mark. It is similar in appearance to a hyphen, but a dash is longer and it is used differently. The most common versions of the dash are the en dash (–) and the em dash (—).

Em DashEdit

The em dash (—) often seperates a parenthetical thought or interruption.


Off duty he wasn’t bad—for a sergeant.

- Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

“But, Sarge, it’s just a cold. The Surgeon said—“

Jelly interrupted.

- Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers

Standing shakily, he became aware that someone—a couple—had entered the store.

- Philip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle

Space or no space?Edit

According to most American sources and to some British sources, an em dash should always be set closed (not surrounded by spaces).

The practice in some parts of the English-speaking world, also the style recommended by The New York Times Manual of Style and Usage (due to the narrow width of newspaper columns), sets it open (separates it from its surrounding words by using spaces or hair spaces when it is being used parenthetically.

Some writers, finding the em dash unappealingly long, prefer to use an open-set en dash. This "space, en dash, space" sequence is also the predominant style in German and French typography.


On a Windows machine, hold down the ALT key and type 0151 on the numpad. On a Mac, hold down the Shift and Options keys and then hold down the minus key.

On Microsoft Word, there is an easy shortcut to type an emdash:

  1. Type a word.
  2. Press the spacebar.
  3. Type in a hyphen, which looks like this: "-"
  4. Press the spacebar again (optional)
  5. Type in the next word, and the press space one last time.
  6. The word is automatically converted to an emdash.

En DashEdit

The en dash can be used for ranges, such as 6–10 years, read as "six to ten years". It can also be used to contrast values, or illustrate a relationship between two things, or it can be used instead of a hyphen in compound adjectives in which one part consists of two words or a hyphenated word.


Ranges of valuesEdit

The en dash is commonly used to indicate a closed range (a range with clearly defined and non-infinite upper and lower boundaries) of values, such as those between dates, times, or numbers.

Some examples of this usage:

  • June–July 1967
  • 1:00–2:00 p.m.
  • For ages 3–5
  • pp. 38–55
  • President Jimmy Carter (1977–1981)

The Guide for the Use of the International System of Units (SI) recommends that the word to be used instead of an en dash when a number range might be misconstrued as subtraction, such as a range of units. For example, "a voltage of 50 V to 100 V" rather than "a voltage of 50–100 V".

It is also considered inappropriate to use the en dash in place of the words to or and in phrases that follow the forms from ... to ... and between ... and ....

Relationships and connectionsEdit

The en dash can also be used to contrast values, or illustrate a relationship between two things.

Some examples of this usage:

  • Notre Dame beat Miami 31–30.
  • New York–London flight (though some sources say that New York to London flight is more appropriate because New York is a single name composed of two valid words; with a dash the phrase is ambiguous and could mean either Flight from New York to London or New flight from York to London)
  • Mother–daughter relationship
  • The Supreme Court voted 5–4 to uphold the decision.
  • The McCain–Feingold bill
  • A C–C single bond

Compound adjectivesEdit

The en dash can be used instead of a hyphen in compound adjectives in which one part consists of two words or a hyphenated word:

  • The non–San Francisco part of the world
  • The post–MS-DOS era
  • High-priority–high-pressure tasks (tasks that are both high-priority and high-pressure).


Hold down the ALT key and type 0150 on the numpad.

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