Writing Tip: En Dashes

En dashes are a rare punctuation mark—while hyphens and em dashes are common, en dashes primarily come into play in two specific scenarios:

1. To indicate a range

An en dash can indicate “from this to that”—number ranges, date ranges, and any other range that’s from one thing to another:

  • The passage contained verses 15–20.
  • The conference will be held April 10–15.
  • They took the Bellingham–Seattle train.
  • They have a love–hate relationship.

Please note that the dash implies “from this to that”; saying “from April 10–15” is redundant.

  • Incorrect: The conference will be held from April 10–15.
  • Correct: The conference will be held April 10–15.

2. To connect words

We use hyphens to connect compound adjectives, like “brand-new software.” This connects one word (“brand”) to one word (“new”).

But when we want to connect one word to multiple words, we use an en dash. The en dash will take place of the hyphen, indicating that you’re not just connecting one word to another. This is often seen in proper nouns or used with prefixes:

  • They created new Logos Bible Software–branded tools.
  • They began an anti–human trafficking movement.

The en dash avoids confusion—for example, in the case of “anti–human trafficking,” a hyphen would be describing the trafficking as “anti-human,” which has a very different meaning!

To create an en dash on your keyboard, use Alt + 0150 on a PC or Option + hyphen on a Mac.

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