What’s the difference between a hyphen, an en dash, and an em dash?
What’s the visual difference?
– En Dash
— Em dash
What’s the meaning difference?
Hypens and en dashes connect things, em dashes seperate them.
A hypen is used in hyphenated names (my own last name is hyphenated) and in connected words such as merry-go-round.
An En Dash means “through” and is used to indicate a range. Read pages 17–20. The war lasted 1203–1279.
There is usually no space on either side of an en dash or hyphen.
Em dashes are often used as substitutes for colons:
I took my phone out, confirming my worry— missed video call from Nigel.
I could guess— and sort of tell, actually, by reading his aura— that Kaine might be trying to figure out if he’d seen me before.
But the reason I use them a lot in writing is they indocatee interruptions. This can be in speech:
“Not really—” Logan said quietly, interrupted by Winnie.
“Lews and I ’ere talkin’ ’bout that the other night!”
(Here I interrupt with dialogue, but it can be interrupted by anything, dialogue, action, even thought, especially if the thouight is by the speaker)
In thought/internal monologue:
I felt a sense of dread as I subconsciously took in the information— it was dark out.
I had things back at the house— wait.
When a thought is interrupted:
If we hadn’t spent all that time talking—
(Here it can be interrupted with dialogue or action)
“I— nothing— we—”
To explain or conclude:
It’s like witchcraft, I think— it’s part of me.
I find these very useful because it feels more fluid to e, how speech and thoughts work, with interruptions and talking over each other and trailing thoughts. They flow better in y mind, and even though I tend to overuse them, they work for me and my style really well and they could help yours.
How do I remember the difference between an en and an em dash?
The name “en” and “em” comes from the size. “en” is about the length of an n, “em” is about the length of an m. Now, this doesn’t track as much when typing and with different fonts, but it did originally refer to the relative size.
How do I make them?
A hyphen is already on your keyboard, to the left of the 0.
In casual settings, a doube hypen– is an acceptable substiture for an em dash, but it is not actually proper. However, in Microsoft Word, a double hypen should automatically correct to an em dash. If you use Docs, I suggest manually making that a shortcut.
Now even though each of the em dashes in this example were originally em dashes that I copy/pasted, copy it not from tumblr. Usually when I need it I google “em dash” and look until the character shows up and copy past it form there. But make sure it’s somewhere in a keyboard shortcut, it’ll make it much easier to use.
This is one of those grammar things I don’t consider to be a later stage of writing concern, because for me, using them helps me write and explore. I may go back and take some out later, though.