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September 22, 2015


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Paul Kelly

Hi Lynn, another interesting post! I can't say I had spotted the subtle differences of the two dashes; I guess, like most people, I use a hyphen where an en dash would be more appropriate, and an en dash where a em dash should be used.

Tip: There's an easier way of inserting en dashes in Microsoft Word, assuming you follow AP rules: type a space, a hyphen and another space between two words, and Word will change the hyphen to an en dash for you.

This conversion feature is enabled by default, but you can turn it off in Word's settings, if you wish.

George Raymond

Lynn, thanks for this useful post.

In emails and website texts, I only use the hyphen - sometimes with spaces on either side of it - instead of special characters like en and em dashes for fear that some email programs and browsers will not display the en and em dashes correctly. Is this fear justified?


Super-helpful info!

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Paul, thanks for the reminder on the easy way to insert an en dash. I have added it to the post, with a credit to you.

I appreciate your comment!


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi George,

I believe you are justified in worrying about how a symbol may appear online. I recommend using a hyphen where an en dash belongs, and a two-hyphen em dash (--) for the em dash. To me, a hyphen simply looks wrong where an em dash belongs.

Confession: After trying hard to create an en dash using HTML in this blog post, I gave up and used screen shots (pictures from Word docs) for my en dash examples above.

I am glad you liked the post.


Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Martha, thanks for the compliment. You got me to wonder about "super-helpful." "The Chicago Manual of Style" recommends closing up compounds with "super" ("superhelpful"), but I like the energy of your version too.



Very helpful article! I tried typing en and em dashes in email but it doesn't seem to work. Is there a way to type them in Google mail?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Kim,

I do not use Google mail so I can't verify this resource, but you can try it:


Would you please comment about your success using the suggested shortcuts?



Hi Lynn,I am saswat from India,Here I am a fashion Merchandiser,Please help me to write a extension mail due to delay in shipment & to put request for extra days for delivery.There are so many reasons & cases to put,But need proper guidance .I had read your first chapter of the book"Business writing",But I was not able to find any Extension request related mail writing.


Hi Lyn,

Isn't it also correct to write a sentence with a hyphen when you are referring but not mentioning the same thing, i.e

I will become a provider of residential-, aged- and home care.

To then show that it is all "care" providers?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Bron,

Your example does not use hyphens correctly. There is no need for them. However, it would be correct this way:

"I will become a provider of residential-, aged-, and home-care services."

The suspended hyphens allow a more concise version of this sentence:

"I will become a provider of residential-care, aged-care, and home-care services."

The word "services" is required because without it there is no need for the commas, as in your original sentence.


Chell Hunter

Hi Lynn,

I have seen em dashes used at the end of written conversation where the speaker is interrupted. Here's an example:

Bill said, "I thought you were--"
"Going to my mother's?" Jill interrupted.

(My cell phone didn't join the 2 hyphens into 1 like Word does. That should be an em dash.)

Is this a correct usage of the em dash?

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi Chell,

Yes, that em dash is correct. It's to show a strong break.


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