Posted by: Jack Henry | August 8, 2013

Editor’s Corner: A “short” tutorial on hyphens and dashes

I’ve covered dashes before, but here’s a refresher for inquiring minds.

  • Hyphen (-) used for compound words, compound names, word divisions, and separators. No space before or after.
  • Compound words: end-of-line, son-in-law
  • Compound names: James Burke-Frazier, Catherine Zeta-Jones
  • Word divisions: dynamite (dy-na-mite)
  • Separators: 1-619-555-1212, “My name is Kara; that’s spelled K-A-R-A.”

Where is it? It is the key on the same row as the number keys (after zero) on most of our keyboards.

  • En dash (–) generally used in place of the word “to,” or for an unfinished number range. No space before or after.
  • In place of the word to:
  • The score was 20–30
  • The show is from 3:00 p.m.–5:00 p.m.
  • January 2013–August 2013
  • In an unfinished number range:
  • John Doe (1966–?)
  • Other uses
  • Compound adjectives (most people do not distinguish between the hyphen and en dash for this use)
  • Minus sign (though there is a separate symbol for the minus sign)

Where is it? There are several ways to add an en dash in Word. Here are two easy ways:

  • Click Insert → Symbol→ Special Characters and select en dash.
  • Keyboard shortcut Ctrl+-(on numeric keypad)
  • Em dash (—) is the most versatile, but not in our world. The em dash is used in prose and can take the place of commas, parentheses, or colons in certain circumstances. The mark is generally used to show a break in thought.
  • Jane saw Barney across the room—she knew she’d never seen anyone so handsome. A lot of times these come in pairs—like parentheses—but I digress.

Where is it? There are several ways to add an em dash in Word, but unless you are writing the great American novel on company time, you should not need them at work. Here are two easy ways:

  • Click Insert → Symbol→ Special Characters and select em dash.
  • Keyboard shortcut Alt+Ctrl+-(on numeric keypad)

Two other dashes that you will not see in our documentation are the 2-em dash and the 3-em dash. The following information is from the Chicago Manual of Style:

  • The 2-em dash (——) Represents a missing word or part of a word, either omitted to disguise a name (or occasionally an expletive). Also used to indicate missing or illegible text in quoted or reprinted material. When a whole word is missing, space appears on both sides of the dash.
  • Admiral N—— and Lady R—— were among the guests.
  • The 3-em dash (———) For successive entries by the same author, editor, translator, or compiler, a 3-em dash (followed by a period or comma, depending on the presence of an abbreviation such as ed.) replaces the name after the first appearance.
  • ———. Reappraisals: Reflections on the Forgotten Twentieth Century. New York: Penguin Press, 2008.
  • ———, ed. Resistance and Revolution in Mediterranean Europe, 1939–1948. New York: Routledge, 1989.

Kara Church
Senior Technical Editor
619-542-6773 | Ext: 766773


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  1. […] A more detailed refresher is here: Editor’s Corner. […]

  2. […] the numbers and dash. (Note: For a lesson on the different types of dashes, see this edition of Editor’s Corner.) Here are a few […]

  3. […] For a lesson on hyphens and dashes, click here. […]

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