October 3, 2012

All Dashes Are Not Created Equal

Writers and editors of print publications would never dream of confusing the em dash (—), en dash (–), and hyphen (-) within the publication. And while most of us can't really explain the difference, we tend to use the correct punctuation mark when we write by hand.

So what happened online? Most websites have no regard for the distinction between these punctuation marks.

If you're the kind of person who seeks professionalism in your work, then you should understand the purpose of each of these punctuation marks, when to use which, and how to type them on a keyboard or include them on a website.

  • Em Dash (—): Denotes a pause in thought, a parenthetical statement, or — more casually — an afterthought. In a web page, a web developer can include — to represent the character. When typing, you can input a character by holding ALT and typing 0151 on the numpad.
  • En Dash (–): Denotes a range, especially of numbers, such as $100–150. – in a web page or ALT-0150 on a keyboard.
  • Hyphen (-): Used for the hyphenation of words (co-ordination; able-minded; pre- and post- touring.) Just use the keyboard key for this one.

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