En Dash (En Rule) – When To Use It (With Examples) (2024)

An en dash, often called the en rule, is a horizontal punctuation mark used primarily to indicate a range between things. Not quite sure what that looks like? Think of it as the middle child in the dash family–it’s longer than a hyphen but not as long as an em dash. And while its length matters, there’s more to the en dash story.

In this guide, I’m diving into what sets the en dash apart, its unique uses, and even some handy keyboard shortcuts to get it just right. So, grab a cuppa, get comfy, and let’s take a fun, deep dive into the world of dashes!

What is an En Dash?

An en dash or en rule is a symbol primarily used to connect two words. Also, you can use it to show a range of dates and numbers and make complex compound adjectives more explicit. It is represented by a mid-sized dash (–), which is wider than a hyphen (-) and narrower than an em dash (—).

En Dash (En Rule) – When To Use It (With Examples) (1)

Many writers neglect it except when they use it as a substitute for an em dash. Even then, it is increasingly replaced with a hyphen to mark a pause or parenthesis, especially online. Journalistic writings and books sometimes use an en dash to replace a hyphen.

We call it en dash because it’s supposed to be the same width as the letter N.

Among British and Australasian publishers, it is preferred to the em dash, although style guides differ.

When to Use an En Dash?

The en dash has several common uses.

En Dash (En Rule) – When To Use It (With Examples) (2)

  1. En Dashes Stand in for Versus

An en dash is often used as a replacement for versus. For example:

  • the Obama–McCain debate
  • the Chargers–Broncos game
  1. Using an Endash with Number and Date Ranges

En dashes can also be used to show different types of ranges in academic writing and mathematical writing. The symbol is essential in various fields because they are used between numbers to replace to for range of times, date, and other numbers.


  • 40–50 people
  • 2–3 weeks
  • 1:00 PM–2:00 PM

One of the many writing issues with en dashes is using the symbol with the word from. When the word from is present, use to instead. For example:

  • Harry Truman was the president of America from 1945 to 1953.
  • The national book fair will be open from 3 PM to 9 PM.
  1. Equal Partnership or Paring

Aside from using it for two opposing items to replace versus, the en dash can also be used for equal pairing. Examples:

  • The U.S.–Australia Free Trade Agreement
  • The Smith–Jones paper

Note that an en dash can alter the meaning markedly. For example, the Spanish-American War (i.e., the war in Spanish America) is different from the Spanish–American War (i.e., the war between Spain and America).

  1. Using an En Dash with Scores and Directions

Use an en dash over hyphens for scores, directions, and votes. Examples:

  • They won against Manila 3–1 yesterday.
  • How long is a New York–Los Angeles flight?
  1. Using an En Dash with Complex Compound Adjectives

You’ll also find an en dash in compound adjectives because the hyphenation of compound adjectives offers clarity. Compound modifiers with an open compound, which is made of two words with a space, require this symbol.

Here are some examples of hyphenated compounds when used in sentences:

  • She enjoys decorating with elegant country-style furniture.
  • I own an art deco-era couch with scalloped velvet.

How Does an En Dash Differ from a Hyphen and Em Dash?

En Dash (En Rule) – When To Use It (With Examples) (3)

Many writers are not aware of the difference between a dash vs. hyphen. The most obvious difference is that the en dash (–) and em dash (—) are slightly larger than the customary hyphen.

Use a single hyphen to join words or sections of words, like self-discipline. The terms hyphen use are sometimes more straightforward compared to an en dash. Numbers like twenty-one and thirty-three also use a hyphen when spelled.

The en dash or super hyphen is for more complex compound adjectives like Elvis Presley-style dance. You can also use it to show ranges, scores, partnerships, competition, and directions.

En Dash (En Rule) – When To Use It (With Examples) (4)

Use an em dash to add information that you can remove from the sentence. It can function like commas and parentheses.

Typing with the En Dash

Different keyboards have different ways to type the en dash.

  • In Mac OS X, an en dash can be rendered very simply by holding the option key down and typing a hyphen.
  • In Windows, hold down the Alt key and type 0150 for an en dash. The shortcut looks like Alt+0151.

An en dash is automatically rendered under Microsoft Word’s default settings by typing one or two spaced hyphens. Take note that this is for the typical computer keyboard.

Alternatively, you can create an en dash by holding down the control key and typing a hyphen on the numeric keypad.

Sometimes, especially online, writers will substitute a dash with two hyphens with a space on each side.

Final Word

Using an en dash correctly makes the connection between words clearer. Remember to use them for directions, ranges, scores, equal partnerships, and as a replacement for versus. I hope I helped you learn when to use an en dash and how to type it on different keyboards. Now use it in your writing with confidence!

En Dash (En Rule) – When To Use It (With Examples) (2024)


En Dash (En Rule) – When To Use It (With Examples)? ›

Many compound words use a hyphen or no punctuation at all. However, many style guides consider it proper to use an en dash if a compound word involves a multiple word proper noun or includes another hyphenated compound within it. For example: The coach knew how to play against a Dallas Cowboys–style offense.

How to use en dash in a sentence example? ›

Use an en dash when you want to: Express date and number ranges: The en dash implies that there is distance between a range of numbers or dates. For example, “plant in August–October,” or “read pages 10–25.” En dashes are also used to report scores, such as, “Our team won 3–0.”

What is the rule for en dash? ›

The en dash is approximately the length of the letter N, and the em dash the length of the letter M. The shorter en dash (–) is used to mark ranges and with the meaning “to” in phrases like “Dover–Calais crossing.” The longer em dash (—) is used to separate extra information or mark a break in a sentence.

When to use an en dash in a compound word? ›

The en dash is longer than a hyphen, but shorter than an em dash (–). It is mainly used between dates to mark a span of time. However, if you have a two-word adjective phrase that must be connected to a noun, an en dash is used instead of a hyphen to create a variant of the compound adjective.

When to use a hyphen in a sentence instead of a comma? ›

The comma (,) is a punctuation mark used mainly to separate parts of a sentence, such as clauses and items in lists. The hyphen (‐) is a punctuation mark used to join words and to separate syllables of a single word. The em dash (—) may be used instead of a comma to set off a parenthetical element in a sentence.

When not to use an em dash? ›

Don't use an em dash in a sentence that already uses “advanced” punctuation. Commas? Sure. But packing an em dash into a sentence that already has a colon or semicolon is a sure sign that you're trying to do too much.

How to properly use an em dash? ›

The em dash (—) can function like a comma, a colon, or parenthesis. Like commas and parentheses, em dashes set off extra information, such as examples, explanatory or descriptive phrases, or supplemental facts. Like a colon, an em dash introduces a clause that explains or expands upon something that precedes it.

Which use of an en dash is acceptable? ›

An en dash is a midsize dash (longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash) that is mostly used to show ranges in numbers and dates. It can also be used for clarity in forming complex compound adjectives.

What is the 3 em dash rule? ›

3-em dashes are generally used to omit a name that should not be disclosed or to signal that word(s) have been left out. This particular dash is normally used in legal documents to protect the innocent. You can either use six hyphens or use an underscore.

What are the grammar rules for dashes? ›

Quick Use: Use a dash to connect independent clauses or to interrupt a main clause in a way that creates dramatic effect. Dashes function in two ways: to signal interruptions in a sentence (basically like parentheses), and to connect independent clauses.

What are the 10 examples of hyphenated compound words? ›

Examples of hyphenated compound words
  • check-in.
  • clean-cut.
  • editor-in-chief.
  • empty-handed.
  • far-fetched.
  • father-in-law, mother-in-law, sister-in-law,etc.
  • free-for-all.
  • know-how.
Nov 11, 2022

How to use en dash in word? ›

Select the area on the document that you'd like to insert the dash. To insert an en dash, press "Control" and the minus sign. To insert an em dash, press "Control," "Alt" and the minus sign .

Should there be spaces around an en dash? ›

Basics of Dashes

For both en dashes and em dashes, do not put any spaces before or after the dashes.

What are the 3 uses of hyphen? ›

The Hyphen
  • TIP Sheet. ...
  • Use a hyphen at the end of a line to divide a word where there is not enough space for the whole word. ...
  • Use a hyphen to indicate a word spelled out letter by letter.
  • Use a hyphen to join two or more words to form compound adjectives that precede a noun.

How do you know if a sentence needs a hyphen? ›

There are several main contexts in which hyphenation may be needed:
  1. Compound adjectives.
  2. Phrasal verbs used as nouns.
  3. Some compound nouns.
  4. Some prefixes and suffixes.
Jan 19, 2016

What is the difference between em dash and en dash? ›

Em dashes indicate a break in a sentence and can take the place of commas, parentheses, and colons. Use an en dash or parentheses to indicate a break in the train of thought or, according to Chicago, to add an “amplifying or explanatory element.”

How to use a hyphen in a sentence? ›

Use a hyphen to form a single idea from two or more words (socio-economic), and whenever its omission would change the meaning of a phrase: President Dunn will speak to small-businessmen. A hyphen can also be used to avoid duplicated vowels and tripled consonants (anti-oppression, pre-empt, hill-like).

How do you add an en dash? ›

Keyboard shortcut

Here are the steps you can take to add an en or em dash using a keyboard shortcut: Select the area on the document that you'd like to insert the dash. To insert an en dash, press "Control" and the minus sign. To insert an em dash, press "Control," "Alt" and the minus sign .

What is an example of en in a sentence? ›

En Sentence Examples. He had much territory to occupy, and in the long march of on an average 85 days, he considered that they could be organized, equipped and drilled en route.

Do you use an en dash between times? ›

In text, don't use an en dash in a range of times. Use to instead: 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM. In a schedule or listing, use an en dash with no spaces around it: 10:00 AM–2:00 PM.

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