Quick & Easy Guide to Dashes


hyphen (-)

A hyphen goes between words or syllables to link them together.

Example: Editors appreciate dash-savvy writers.

All English keyboards: the hyphen is the minus key next to zero.

en dash (–)

An en dash denotes a range between numbers or dates. It is so called because it is the same length as the letter “n.”

Example: The author used multiple dashes on pages 4–90.

Microsoft: alt + 0150

MS Word auto-format: enter [space], [hyphen], [space] between words.

Like this: word – word

Apple: option + hyphen

Smartphone or tablet: hold down the hyphen key until more options appear. The N-dash is probably the middle choice.

em dash (—)

An em dash denotes an interruption. It is so called because it is the same length as the letter “m.”

Example: Authors—even professional ones—often use dashes incorrectly.

Microsoft: alt + 0151

MS Word auto-format: enter [hyphen][hyphen] between words without spaces.

Like this: word–word

Apple: shift + option + hyphen

Smartphone or tablet: hold down the hyphen key until more options appear. The M-dash is the widest choice.


8 thoughts on “Quick & Easy Guide to Dashes

  1. Better Novel Project (@BetterNovelProj) says:

    Great post, Lara!

    I recently saw this dash-related sentence in a tabloid mag:

    “Ever since George’s birth, William and Kate have been inundated with warm wishes and gifts for their son ndash; especially when the trio were on their royal tour in April, visiting Australia and New Zealand.”

    All hail Prince Ndash! 🙂

  2. Mike Torr says:

    Thank you Lara! That’s useful.

    One tip for Scrivener users: if you can’t get the en and em dashes to look different, check which font you’re using. I was puzzled for a minute because they looked identical, but then I realised I was typing in Courier. Cochin works fine.

  3. Kay says:

    I’m part of a team collaborating on a manual. Some of us use MAC and others use PC. When we go back and forth, the dashes revert to double hyphens. Is there a universal way to do the em-dash?

    • Lara says:

      Very strange! If someone does Alt+0151 on the PC and option+shift+minus on the Mac, both should create the em-dash. The only reason I can think that it might switch would be if they were typed with the auto-format and not manually inserted. You could copy an em-dash from online and paste it in using the find and replace.

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