How To Properly Use The Hyphen, En Dash And Em Dash

Grammar and punctuation can be tricky when you're writing. If you're not sure what all those dashes are or how to use them, this video clearly explains the differences between the hyphen (-), the en dash ( — ), and the em dash ( — ).

In the video from The New Yorker's YouTube channel, Comma Queen Mary Norris breaks down the rules for all three dashes. They hyphen is the shortest mark and is used for making compound words (like cinder-block), and when you break a word at the end of a line. The mid-length en dash is a hybrid punctuation mark that is used vary sparingly to link two compounds (like The New York — New Haven Railway), or for sports scores (like the Yankees won 5 — 0). Lastly, the em dash is the longest of the dashes and is commonly used in pairs to replace excess punctuation in a sentence and clean things up a bit. Norris's example looks like this:

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Dashes can be confusing if you don't know how to use them, but they can be really powerful when used properly. Now you can be a little more dashing.

Comma Queen: Mad Dash [YouTube]


    Your en dash examples are actually em dashes.

      Indeed. The en dash, by definition is the width of an "n", the em dash, of an "m". The examples both seem to be em width. In my experience, I have found little use for the em dash, the hyphen and en dash are generally all you need. Saves trouble too if you're swapping text between fonts.


      Additionally—as depicted in the example shown in the video—em dashes usually don't need to be surrounded by spaces. At least they don't in all the good examples I've come across.

    So the em dash example replaces one bit of punctuation with another?

    I enjoy these grammar/punctuation lessons. I enjoy them even more when there's mistakes in them!!!
    The mid-length en dash is a hybrid punctuation mark that is used vary sparingly to link two compounds
    Shouldn't that be very sparingly?

    Of course if 80% of people don't know the difference, who care what one you use they are not going to understand it any better or worse if you use the different dash its not like they will think "Oh thats en em-dash not an en-dash, now it makes sense."

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