What is an En Dash?

An en dash is a short form of the word “em dash”, and is used to designate a range or connection. It’s easily distinguished by its length; en dashes are about the length of a single letter n and slightly longer than a hyphen.

According to the University of Chicago Press, they are commonly used to indicate inclusive ranges, such as when writing dates or numbers, but can also be used to depict connections between entities.

Additionally, en dashes lend emphasis in titles or headlines, visually furthering the separation of separate thoughts within a sentence. So remember – If you’re looking for an en dash, just look for the letter n!

En Dash Rules

Learning these four critical rules when using an en dash will help communication become clearer and easier. With these four rules firmly entrenched in one’s grammar skillset, any English speaker can properly construct sentences with ease!

IndicationFirstly, an apostrophe is generally used to indicate possession or omissions of letters/words.
PlacementSecondly, commas should be placed where you would naturally pause while reading a sentence aloud.
UsageThirdly, colons should be used to introduce a list or explain a sentence after it has begun.
ClausesLastly, semicolons are used to join two independent clauses that are closely related.
En Dash Rules and Explanations Table
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En Dash Examples

En dashes are incredibly useful punctuation marks, used to add extra emphasis to a sentence or statement. Although en dashes look similar to hyphens, they have a specific purpose and meaning – en dashes connect words in place of the word “to” or “through”.

Household appliances such as refrigerators and microwaves are often marketed using en dashes in comments like, “fresh-frozen–processed” which indicates that the product has not been processed by any outside sources.

Additionally, en dash examples can be found when referencing number ranges – for example, listing page numbers from 1–15 indicates that all pages from 1 to 15 should be read.

Finally, en dashes also indicate conflict resolution between incompatible concepts such as heaven–earth.

Utilizing en dashes in sentences adds clarity and helps direct readers’ attention to the items being compared or connected.

En Dash Exercises with Answers

Insert the en dash where you think it belongs.


  • Our plane tickets cost $200 250.
  • Jane Smith Doe.
  • The students had different goals perspectives on the assignment.
  • Cake toppings chocolate chips, nuts, and sprinkles.
  • New York is known for its delicious food especially pizza.


  • Our plane tickets cost $200250.
  • Jane SmithDoe.
  • The students had different goalsperspectives on the assignment.
  • Cake toppings chocolate chips, nuts, and sprinkles.
  • New York is known for its delicious food especially pizza.

En Dash List

Time frames“In her 2009–2010 school year she won several awards.”
Emphasize an idea“It was quite an overwhelming experience – he had no idea what to expect.”
Zones“The train times work on a Monday–Friday schedule.”
Separators“You can pick between red, blue, or green – which one do you like best?”
Elaboration“He chose the cheaper option – much to the dismay of his parents.”
En Dash List Table
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Advice for ESL Students & English Language Learners

As an ESL student looking to improve their English, en dashes can be a useful tool. En dash is used primarily to denote range — it’s the lengthier version of the hyphen and used in place of ‘to’ or ‘through.’ With en dash being so versatile, it’s important for ESL learners to familiarize themselves with its proper usage; en dash is not interchangeable with hyphens and vice versa.

In addition to en dash, ESL students should also try reading in English, watching subtitled films and television programs and talking with native speakers as much as possible. All of these activities will help one sharpen their English talent significantly.

Additionally, it is important for learners to properly understand how to use the em dash and parenthesis.

Common Mistakes Made by English Learners

Learning English can be a difficult process, especially for people who have yet to master the many nuances of the language. One area that commonly creates dissonance is the en dash, which many English learners often incorrectly interpret as a hyphen.

Although both en dashes and hyphens are used to link two words together, en dashes should always be slightly longer than hyphens, and they also have different usages. For example, en dashes are most often employed to substitute “to” when referring to a range of values (e.g. 5–10), while hyphens are primarily used to connect multiple nouns or adjectives that refer to one entity (e.g. peace-keeping mission). Failing to recognize these distinctions can confuse readers and detract from published work intended for an international audience.

Common Mistakes:

1. Incorrect Tense

Why it Happens

Not having a firm grasp on correct punctuation marks can confuse your statements. This can cause you to use the wrong punctuation marks and misconstrue your message.

Correct Use

When speaking English, you would use punctuation marks that reflect the subject in question. Keep context in mind when selecting your punctuation marks.

2. Lack of punctuation marks

Why it Happens

The easiest mistake is leaving out punctuation marks when needed. Failing to use these in phrases can lead others to misinterpret what you are trying to express.

Correct Use

Punctuation marks join words together – for example, ‘heavy-handed’ or ‘ever-sure’.

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3. Inconsistency

Why it Happens

People forget how they described something before and change the context in a contradictory manner. This confuses the reader.

Correct Use

Be sure that your punctuation marks remain consistent throughout your writing. There should be no sudden shifts.

4. Incorrect Usage

Why it Happens

You don’t know which punctuation marks to use, so you use too many and it confuses the statement.

Correct Use

Using too many punctuation marks can make your writing sound monotonous and can also lead to viewers losing interest. Therefore it is important to focus on expressing yourself clearly and effectively with them.

Tips to Avoid Common Mistakes:

  • It’s important to proofread your work for accuracy, and one detail you should pay attention to is the en dash.
  • An en dash is longer than a hyphen but shorter than an em dash; it looks like this —.
  • One common mistake is to use a hyphen instead of an en dash; unfortunately, hyphens are usually too short and don’t make a visual distinction between words.
  • Therefore, always double-check that you’re using en dashes in your writing where appropriate! Doing so will help you avoid making mistakes that could otherwise distract readers from the overall point of your text.
English Grammar Learning Infographic

Learning En Dash Use Strategies and Best Practices

Knowing how to use en dashes correctly can be tricky at first, especially if you’re used to using the traditional hyphen or minus sign. An en dash is a longer form of the hyphen, used to indicate a range or connection between two numbers (i.e. “1973–1978”), words, sentences and phrases (“New York – London”). It also has a more emphatic quality than the hyphen, helping sentences flow more smoothly.

To make sure you get en dash usage right every time, crafting strategies and best practices is essential. Learning how en dashes should be formatted in a sentence ahead of time will save you plenty of time in editing and rewriting down the line. Keep reading for more useful tips:

Tip 1: Study a List

Why it helps

Learning the various punctuation marks and using them properly in speaking and writing is easier than it seems with daily practice. A list can simplify this process and make it seem less daunting.

Daily Life Example

The best way to learn to use punctuation marks correctly is to study a list of words and their usage, and then practice writing sentences with them.

Tip 2: Practice Reading

Why it helps

Exposing yourself to punctuation marks hidden between other words can help you identify them faster and with more accuracy.

Daily Life Example

To ensure that you understand how frequently a type of punctuation mark should be used it’s important to practice reading with them as well, so the meanings become clear. So keep a book of your choice on hand and highlight every punctuation mark you come across.

Tip 3: Everyday Conversations

Why it helps

By applying the punctuation marks exercise to everyday written conversations, you’ll find these words easy to remember and use in the near future.

Daily Life Example

Take your time when speaking to people. Take note of the grammar they use, and try and repeat them back in different contexts. You can also do this from the comfort of your home by recording yourself or using an AI assistant.

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En Dash Frequently Asked Questions

According to the Chicago Manual, an en dash is a type of punctuation mark that is used to represent the span or range between two values. It is roughly equivalent to the length of an “N” in many fonts, significantly smaller than the length of an em dash. It is commonly used to connect related items in a sentence, such as ranges of numbers, dates, and times.

In comparison to hyphens which are typically used for compound adjectives, en dashes are primarily utilized to indicate relationships with equality rather than connecting two words. As such, these special characters are often found within technical documents and formal correspondence where distinctions need to be made from one part to another.

The en dash, which is the longer of the two dashes found on a standard keyboard, has its own set of uses. It can be used to provide clarity in between a range of numbers or dates, such as to indicate a time period (January–March) or when expressing spans (pages 55–67).

Additionally, en dashes can be used to represent relationships between people (Van Anker–Strasser family), locations (New York–Washington route), and objects (DVD–Blu-ray player). Many writers use en dashes frequently so it is important to recognize the power and accuracy this mark brings when included in your work.

According to the Chicago University Press, En dash, or the longer of the two dash lengths commonly used, is a punctuation mark primarily used for emphasis in written language. It is also often used to separate a continuous range of numbers and/or words, for example, in time ranges (“4:30–7:00”) which can be simpler than including both the hyphen and en dash when expressing them.

The en dash is traditionally slightly longer than the hyphen, making it useful as an alternative to brackets indicating parenthetical remarks as well. While this special character is not as widely used as its abrupt break counterpart, it has many practical applications and can help enliven writing that might otherwise appear mundane or overly technical.

An en dash is a rarely used punctuation symbol, represented as a dashed line between two words, numbers or dates. Its name comes from its length, being roughly the width of the number “1” character. En-dashes are used to signify connections that are similar but not exactly equal – such as “March–April” or “Caesar–Brutus”.

A good en dash example can be found in the sentence “The Montreal–New York flight was cancelled” – these types of dashes connect two places with a movement between them, but does not indicate any equality: you do not go from Montreal and New York simultaneously.

The en dashes are the most commonly used types of dashes used when writing formally. It often acts as a substitute for words like ‘to’ or ‘through’. For example, en dashes are often used to denote dates such as in the year 2020–2021. They can also be used to indicate inclusive numbers, like “Pages 5–7” or “June 18–20”. Knowing how and when to use en dashes in formal writing can add clarity and precision to your work.

However, en dash usage should remain consistent within a single piece of text; either hyphens or en dashes should be used consistently throughout it. Most importantly, en dashes should only be used in appropriate situations—it’s important not to confuse them with hyphens or other punctuation marks.

Understanding style differences and style guides will help you use a considerable range of grammar.

This includes your numeric keypad, 3-em dash, sudden breaks, quotation marks, quotation dashes, swung dashes, closing dashes, signature dashes, dash conventions, the three-hyphen em dash proxy, the two-hyphen em dash proxy, figure dashes, adjacent spaces, internal spaces, real spaces, hair spaces, spacing characters, lowercase letters, middle letters, unicode symbols, and extender marks.

Learn from History – Follow the Science – Listen to the Experts

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