What is an En Dash? - Use & Examples

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you have ever wondered what an en dash is or how to use it, look no further. En dashes are an important part of punctuation, especially when you are writing about numbers and ranges. In this lesson we will explore when and how to use en dashes in writing.

What Is an En Dash?

Can you find the en dash on your keyboard? It looks like a hyphen but a little longer. Chances are you cannot find the en dash on your keyboard because it isn't there. Sort of like a white crayon, you might wonder why we have en dashes when we can't even see them. The truth is that they are not extremely common in writing, but when you need one, you'll be glad you know how to create one and when to use it.

The en dash is a type of punctuation that is used to replace the word ''to'' when writing about ranges. Alternatively, an em dash replaces commas, parentheses, or colons in certain circumstances.

You can think of each as being as long as the letter they spell; an en dash being about as long as a N and an em dash about as long as an M. Some people think of their lower case letters too, n and m. These aren't exact measurements, but it can help you remember that the en dash is shorter than the em dash.

Top: a hyphen; Middle: an en dash; Bottom: an em dash
en dash

When to Use En Dashes

En dashes are used when you are writing ranges. While you might automatically think that ranges always have to do with numbers, this is not the case. You could be talking about months or sections of alphabetical names, etc.

A sentence that uses the en dash with numbers might look like this:


You can see that the en dash is just another way of writing ''to.''

Another way to use the en dash is when you are writing about non-number ranges. You could use the en dash if you wanted to write about months or a list of names like this:


You might also see the en dash used on plane tickets or boarding passes in the airport. The ticket might say that your flight is from a certain airport code to another. This is just another (shorter) way of saying that the flight is from one city to another.

Creating an En Dash on computers

In order to create an en dash with Microsoft Word using a keyboard with a number pad, first make sure that Num Lock is enabled. Then hold down control (ctrl) and hit the minus key.

If you using a laptop or device that doesn't have a number pad, you can go to the Insert tab, and go to the Symbol menu. A window will pop up with two tabs. Select the Special Characters tab and it will show a list that includes the En Dash.

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