What’s an En Sprint? (And Methods to Use it Accurately)
By popular demand (i.e. one of you asked, and I thank you for that), here’s a post about the counterpart to the em dash and the hyphen. Let’s get to know the en dash.
An en dash is one of the special punctuation marks that most people see all the time, but rarely think about how to use correctly. Here it is: –
Fun fact: the reason the en and em dashes have those names are because of their lengths. An em dash (—) is about the length of the letter m, and an en dash (–) is the length of the letter n.
Isn’t that fun? Now you have a conversation starter for cocktail parties.
When to Use an En Dash
The en dash is used when connecting ranges, and it replaces “to” in those ranges.
You might have relatives aged 2–52, or a flight to catch from Austin–Detroit, or a baseball game that your team wins 4–2. In all of those circumstances, you would be using an en dash.
The en dash indicates a range. Use it instead of “to” for ranges like ages, scores, and distances: 3–5 years, a 4–2 win, a flight from Austin–Detroit.
How to Create an En Dash
The en dash isn’t a key on your keyboard, so here’s a quick guide to help you type them correctly.
If you are on a Mac or iOS device, press option and the hyphen (-) key to create the en dash.
In Windows, there are a few ways to do it. Microsoft Word will automatically replace a hyphen with an en dash if you add a space before and after it. If you type “I’m flying from Austin [space] [hyphen] [space] Detroit,” then Word automatically makes the hyphen an en dash. Then you need to go remove the spaces. (Annoying, I know.)
If you have a number keypad, you can use the shortcut alt+0150 to create the en dash.
And finally, you can add an en dash from the symbols menu. Click on “Insert” and then“Symbols.” Click “more symbols” and find the en dash. Press “insert” to add it to your document.
In the current version of Google Docs, you can simply type the hyphen key twice (no spaces), and it automatically creates the en dash (unless you are using an international keyboard).
And if you’d like to copy and paste an en dash, copy away: –
Practice Telling Them Apart
Let’s line them up all in a row for a quick comparison:
— em dash
– en dash
See the difference?
Take a few minutes to play with how to create hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes in your favorite word processing tool. Do you think you have the hyphen, en dash, and em dash under control? Complete the practice below and find out.
What tricks do you use to keep your hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes straight? Share in the comments.
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Write for fifteen minutes about someone running to catch a flight. Use hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes to describe what caused the delay, where they’re going, and what bar they’re going to when they finally get to their destination.
Post your scene in the practice box below and give feedback to a few fellow writers.
Enter your practice here: