This week, for Grammar Time, we’ll discuss another member of the dash family: the en dash. You can click here to read our recent post about using an em dash.
When Should We Use En Dashes?
The en dash is used to connect numbers, signifying “up to and including” or “through,” or to end an unfinished number range. It can also signify “to” in the cases of scores and directions. Here are some examples:
Please read pages 25–52 tonight.
Zoe Saldana (1978–)
The Rockets defeated the Jazz 112–102 in the final game.
The Salt Lake–Provo train leaves in twenty minutes.
The en dash is also used to connect compound adjectives. Normally, a hyphen can be used to connect adjectives in phrases like “the blue-green pond.” However, that can get confusing if your adjectives already contain hyphens or when one consists of an open compound. Consider these examples:
The green-eyed–blue-haired monster was spotted by the lake.
Michael Jackson–style music is at the top of the charts.
She has decided to attend the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
When Should We Not Use En Dashes?
These en dashes link the phrases more comprehensively than a hyphen would, but they should only be used when a more elegant solution (i.e. a comma, conjunction, or rewording the sentence) cannot.
“The ‘80s-inspired–home-shot short film was a hit at the local film festival,” would be easier to read as, “The ‘80s-inspired, home-shot short film was a hit at the local film festival.”
“We’re looking for an open-minded–easy-going event planner,” could be written as, “We’re looking for an open-minded and easy-going event planner.”
“The band relies on rock music–inspired melodies,” might be clearer if it read, “The band relies on melodies inspired by rock music.”
The en dash has lots of uses that are totally separate from em dashes or hyphens. However, if using a comma or conjunction or just rewording the sentence altogether would work better, don’t hesitate to do so.
As a tip, the shortcut for the en dash is Alt+0150 (or Option key, Minus key for Mac).
Till next time!