Monday, November 18, 2013

Hyphens, En-dashes and Em-dashes...Oh My! by Karen Michelle Nutt @KMNbooks, @WildRosePress #grammar

Hyphens, en-dashes and em-dashes are frequently used punctuation marks in novels, documents and letters. Each have a different purpose. Here’s a quick reference when to use each.

A hyphen (-) is the shortest in length of the three. It is used when you want a break at the end of a line, when using compound words like devil-may-care or when the width of you document is narrow and the word is too long.  

This is an example of a frequent- 
ly used punctuation. 

An em-dash (—) is the longest of the three, and is used to indicate a break in thought. It can also be used to separate a thought within a sentence —like now— which would require an em-dash at the beginning and the end of the phrase.

The en-dash (–), which is shorter than an em-dash, but longer than a hyphen. This is used to indicate a range of values. Similar to using ‘to’ and ‘from’. Here’s an example, 12 AM – 3 AM is the most popular haunting hours. Another example, ages 10 – 12 are permitted to attend.

You can use an en-dash in place of an em-dash if size and spacing of the em-dash does not suit the document. You just need to be consistent throughout the document. However, don’t use two hyphens in place of an em-dash or an en-dash. It was once acceptable when typewriters were all the rage and there were no dashes on the keyboard. Now the dashes are available on the keyboards. So no excuse not to use them. :) 

Now go write that next bestseller! 


Calisa Rhose said... Best Blogger Tips

Thanks for clarifying these, Karen. One tip I'd like to add is always check with a particular publisher on any and all of these because I've learned some actually don't allow the EN-dash at all, only the EM-dash. Not only that, but one of my publishers preferred this -- form in place of an actual em-dash until very recently. You don't have to worry about form while writing (unless you're writing geared toward a publisher who does want the different form and you already know it). But if your publisher does have a preference, it's best to make sure you change all of yours to that before or during first edits if possible. It's so simple with search/find/replace. :) Personally, I never use the en-dash when a plain dash, or hyphen, will do. lol

Karen Michelle Nutt said... Best Blogger Tips


I'm with you with the en-dash. I rarely use it if at all. I even thought about not adding it to the post. lol

I didn't think to add that you should check with your publisher fist to see what they accept. Thanks for mentioning this.

I can't believe your one publisher was still using --. Wow. Glad to see they've finally entered the 21st century. lol

Calisa Rhose said... Best Blogger Tips

LOL It worked better for epubbing clean books, and I'm all for making books bee-oo-tiful! But the em-dash is great. :)