En Dash

En Dash (–) When to Use an En Dash (N Dash)

What Is an En Dash? What is (–) called? Learn useful punctuation rules and how to use en dash in English with example sentences and ESL worksheet.

En Dash (–)

What Is an En Dash?

An en dash (–) is a punctuation mark that is slightly wider than a hyphen but narrower than an em dash. It got such a name because, in fact, it is the same width as the letter N.

Many writers neglect the N dash and only use a hyphen or an em dash. This is especially likely to happen online because a typical keyboard doesn’t have a dedicated key for it. However, there are certain situations in which the en dash, and not any other punctuation mark, should be used.

Learn more with the difference between an en dash and an em dash.

When To Use an En Dash?

Range of Numbers

If you have a range of numbers or a period of time, you need to use an en dash. Remember that there shouldn’t be a space between the en dash and the words or numbers surrounding it. In these cases, the N dash will be pronounced, depending on the context, as “to” or “through”.

For example:

  • If you want further information about this topic, read chapters 5–7.
  • The office hours of our Economics professor are every Tuesday and Friday, 9:00 a.m.–11:30 a.m.
  • The 2015–2016 fiscal year was the most profitable yet for this company.

Keep in mind that if you are using words such as between or from to introduce a range of numbers, you don’t need an en dash.

For example:

  • Marianne worked in that company from 2011 to 2016 (NOT Marianne worked in that company from 2011-2016).
  • You can contact me every Wednesday between 3:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. (NOT You can contact me every Wednesday between 3:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m.).

Scores and Results

If you want to show the score of a football match or any other sports events, as well as of any contest in general, you also need an en dash.

For example:

  • My university’s basketball team won its last game 65–48.
  • The National Mine-workers Union voted 12–5 in favor of a strike.


An en dash is the punctuation mark that you need to include in your sentence if you are talking about distance between two points.

For example:

  • The Athens–Tokyo flight takes more than 14 hours.
  • Her Belgrade–Warsaw–Berlin trip this summer was one of the best things that have ever happened to her.


To show a connection between two terms, use an en dash. This connection doesn’t have to be a positive one: if you are presenting a conflict between two issues, the punctuation will stay the same.

In addition, you need an en dash if you are talking about a partnership.

For example:

  • The science–religion conflict is yet to be resolved.
  • The UK–Australia Free Trade Agreement would benefit both nations significantly.

Using the en dash correctly is very important because sometimes if you use a hyphen instead, it will change the meaning of the sentence. For instance, if you’re talking about the war that is happening in Spanish America, you would use a hyphen: Spanish-American war. But if you use an en dash (Spanish–American war), you will be talking about a war between Spain and America, which is something completely different.

Compound Adjectives

If an adjective is formed from two simple words, then they are usually connected by a hyphen. However, if one of the compounds is a phrase or already contains a hyphen, to avoid confusion, an en dash is used.

For example:

  • Next week a National Book Award–winning novelist is coming to our town to present her new book.
  • Due to reasons unknown to his audience, this writer works exclusively with e-book–only publishers.

En Dash Shortcuts

As it was already mentioned, there isn’t an en dash key on a typical computer keyboard. Under no circumstances does it mean that you should avoid using this punctuation mark in your writing or replace it with an em dash or a hyphen. Depending on the program you’re using, there are shortcuts you can use.

In MS Word, enable Num Lock and press Ctrl + Minus Key. In Pages, enable Num Lock and press Option/ Alt + Minus Key. In Google Docs, where there isn’t a ready shortcut, you can create one yourself by going to Tools and then to Preferences.

If you don’t use N dashes very often, the easiest thing that you can do is just copy it from somewhere and paste it into your writing. There also is the option of going to Insert and choosing the Symbol that you’re looking for.

When To Use an En Dash | Image

En Dash

En Dash vs Em Dash vs Hyphen

The most confusing thing about an en dash is the fact that it is so similar to two other punctuation marks, the em dash and the hyphen. However, they are only similar in appearance. The uses of each of them are very different, so you should be very careful when choosing between these three.

One of the main things that you should remember is that the most common use of an en dash is to show connection between two numbers, cities, issues, or terms. In contrast, an em dash usually shows emphasis, creates a break in a sentence, or highlights unimportant words in a sentence. If it is possible to replace the punctuation mark in question with parentheses or a colon, then, for sure, it should be an em dash.

The confusion between an en dash and a hyphen exists mostly when it comes to compound adjectives, and yet here there also is nothing difficult. If you create an adjective from two or more separate words, then they should be connected by a hyphen. For example, you might want to describe a child who is three years old: you can call him a three-year-old. Following the same logic, you might write about a well-behaved dog, a brightly-lit room, or a blue-eyed woman: all of these adjectives require a hyphen.

But if one or more parts of the compound adjective is a phrase, or it’s already hyphenated, you should use an en dash. For example, if you are talking about a band that was influenced by country music, you would call it a country music–influenced band. Similarly, you could describe a dress as semi-casual–semi-formal. Both adjectives have an en dash.

En dash vs Em dash vs Hyphen

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