Need to Dash? Use the Correct Dash!

October 25, 2012

Last week we talked about using typographic quotes instead of a measurement. This week I want to continue the discussion and make sure you are using the correct dashes.

In most fonts you will find three distinct dashes and I’ve shown examples of each at right. In the top example is the hyphen and it is meant to be used for hyphenated words. Often it is misused in areas where one of the other dashes should be used.

The middle example is the “en” dash and it should be used when a duration is involved. In the example I’ve shown, it is used between two dates. On the bottom is the “em” dash and it is used to divide a sentence—much as you would do with a comma. You may be in the habit of typing two hyphens instead of an em dash. In fact, it is common that software will automatically convert two hyphens into an em dash.

On most keyboards, the hyphen is found on the top row of your keyboard next to the zero. Windows users can get an en dash by holding down the Alt key and typing 0150 on the numeric keypad. Em dashes are created by holding down Alt and typing 0151 on the numeric keypad. Mac users can get the En dash by pressing Option + hyphen. Em dashes can be typed by pressing Option + Shift + hyphen.

That’s the tip for today and now it is time for me to dash!

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