image of em-dash

Dash

Three punctuation marks that are often misused are the

Em Dash

The em dash is twice as long as the en dash. Em dashes emphasize material within a sentence more emphatically than commas. The em dash is used to indicate a break in thought or sentence structure. An em dash can be used to introduce a phrase added for emphasis, definition, or explanation. It can also be used to separate two clauses. There should be no space on either side of the em dash.

  • I only wanted a piece of pie—but the waitress talked me into a steak!
  • I would request—or should I say, insist—that anyone riding with me fasten their seat belt.
  • All nine members of the homeowners’ association—even the newly appointed president—voted to increase the annual membership fee.
  • The city’s mayor—a man of low energy, low intelligence, and lack of forethought—failed to implement an emergency evacuation plan.

How to type an Em dash on a computer:

Windows PC

  • Em dash — Alt and 0151

Mac

  • Em dash — Shift and Alt and – (hyphen) or Command and M

En dash

En dashes are used to indicate number ranges as well as connect elements of a compound adjective.

  • Please read pages 255-319 in your lab manual.
  • The Korean War lasted from 1950–1953.
  • The patient was a three-year-old boy.
  • Paul got a part-time job.

How to type an En dash on a computer:

Windows PC

  • En dash — Alt and 0150

Mac

  • En dash — Alt and

Hyphen

Hyphens are shorter in length than the em dash and en dash and are used to join words and separate syllables of a single word. A more detailed explanation, as well as examples, can be found on the hyphen page.