“em" dash or "en" dash

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Susan Su

Senior Member
Chinese
Hi friend,

I am always confused about “em" dash or "en" dash. Here I write a title, but I am wondering whether I should change "–" into "—". What do you suggest?

1. Don’t Be HastyLearn to Be Quiet Before God
2. Don’t Be HastyLearn to Be Quiet Before God

Look forward to your reply soon, thank you.
 
  • Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I think you are probably comparing a "hyphen" usage with a "dash" (em dash) usage.

    This article explains the differences. These are really three different marks, the hyphen is the shortest and the only one represented on the keyboard. The em dash is usually achieved by hitting the hyphen twice in a row. There is no way that I know of to reproduce the en dash.

    En Dash and Em Dash | Get It Write Online

    A number of our readers have written to ask us to explain the difference between the hyphen, the em dash, and the en dash.
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Don't be confused, there is no difference.

    That is to say, some very few Americans and some British professional printers can see a difference and some of them will give you complicated and unnecessary "rules" about when to use them. But 99% of the population won't even see the difference (less than 1mm) and don't care. (In speech there's no difference anyway.) There is no distinction on most keyboards.

    If you want some sort of dash, place a space before and after and trust your word-processor to use the right one.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    A hyphen joins two words together like "well-being", or to indicate a break in a word at the end of a line of type.

    The em dash indicateds a pause of greater duration than a comma, but less than a semicolon.

    There is no way to represent the en dash on a standard keyboard, so I would consider the en dash "obsolete" in most situations.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Don't be confused, there is no difference.

    That is to say, some very few Americans and some British professional printers can see a difference and some of them will give you complicated and unnecessary "rules" about when to use them. But 99% of the population won't even see the difference (less than 1mm) and don't care. (In speech there's no difference anyway.) There is no distinction on most keyboards.

    If you want some sort of dash, place a space before and after and trust your word-processor to use the right one.
    :thumbsup::):thumbsup::)
     

    Hermione Golightly

    Senior Member
    British English
    That is to say, some very few Americans and some British professional printers can see a difference and some of them will give you complicated and unnecessary "rules" about when to use them. But 99% of the population won't even see the difference (less than 1mm) and don't care. (In speech there's no difference anyway.) There is no distinction on most keyboards.
    Music to my ears! I am so delighted to see this, I can't tell you! I recently spent some time examining my keyboard and a lot of googling to find out how to make a 'proper' dash. How the heck had I managed to live so long 'dash-free', without being 'dash-aware', let alone 'dash-competent'. The worst was I could barely understand the instructions how to make one! Maybe, if I were an octopus I would be able to hold down this, that and t'other, while pressing a few other things else.

    If it is all that important, why isn't it on the keyboard?

    I suspect that might be because my British education taught that dashes were not acceptable punctuation, along with exclamation marks.
    I'll sleep soundly tonight!:rolleyes:
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Music to my ears! I am so delighted to see this, I can't tell you! I recently spent some time examining my keyboard and a lot of googling to find out how to make a 'proper' dash. How the heck had I managed to live so long dash free, without being 'dash-aware', let alone 'dash-competent'. The worst was I could barely understand the instructions how to make one! Maybe, if I were an octopus I would be able to hold down this, that and t'other, while pressing a few other things else.
    :):thumbsup::):thumbsup:
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I often ponder the long dash vs. an ellipsis which I use as not only as an absence of words, but also as a presence of time--effectively a longer pause than a dash or even a period. And while I sometimes struggle to descide which to use, I confess I have never lost sleep over this.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    It might help if one remembers that in traditional typesetting using proportional type, the use of em spaces, en spaces en leaders en dashes, em dashes, etc. was primarily used to align columns of figures.
    I see a lot of dithering not only over nothing, but by people who don't understand traditional typesetting.
     

    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    It might help if one remembers that in traditional typesetting using proportional type, the use of em spaces, en spaces en leaders en dashes, em dashes, etc. was primarily used to align columns of figures.
    I see a lot of dithering not only over nothing, but by people who don't understand traditional typesetting.
    In journalism school I had to hand set a full column of a newspaper. It was to teach us a respect for typography. So to end up with both justified right and left margins, we also had very small spaces to add between letters (kerning). I think back at that time not with nostalgia, but with dread.
     
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