Hyphen En-Dash Em-Dash — Usage

Hyphen En-Dash Em-Dash (they’re not the same thing). Hyphens and dashes feature prominently in almost any piece of copywriting, including time ranges (2:00pm – 3:00pm), joining words, interruptions and punctuation to express additional information.

There are different symbols to represent each purpose and knowing which ones to use will lend greater professionalism to your copywriting. This insight discusses the three most common symbols that are used heavily, incorrectly, and are very easy to correct.

The Hypen (-)

A hyphen joins words or breaks syllables. Look at the sentence: The man-eating sharks. If the hyphen was not included, the sentence would read: The man eating sharks. This would denote a man enjoying sharks as a meal, a dining experience instead of a danger. Hyphens also appear when a single word runs out of space on the page, and continues on the next line. Hyphens are also used in URLs with more than one word: www.quantico.sg/copywriting-agency-singapore
Create a hyphen: (-)

The En-Dash (–)

An en-dash indicates a range. It is usually read as “to” or “up to and including”. Look at the sentence: We’re Open 10:00am – 2:00pm and 4:00pm – 8:00pm. The en-dash, not a hyphen, is placed between the times to denote a range of time. The same rule applies for years: World War II (1939 – 1945). It’s called an en-dash because it’s the width of the letter n in the point size in which the text is being outputted. The en-dash is also a better choice for the minus sign.
Create an en-dash: (OPTION together with -)

The Em-Dash (—)

An em-dash breaks a sentence and includes additional or ongoing narratives. Look at the sentence: Many voters had gathered in front of the stage — some carrying signs and waving flags — to celebrate the victory of the president. Em-dashes are often substituted with two hyphens (–) a crime in copywriting and typography. It’s called an em-dash because it’s the width of the letter m in the point size in which text is being outputted. In Singapore, unit numbers are often represented in the following convention: #21-01. While this is accepted, the correct format would be to use the em-dash: #21–00.
Create an em-dash: (OPTION together with SHIFT together with -)

Many overlook these conventions, but when done properly, your copywriting is not only using punctuation correctly, it simply looks better. This is because typeface designers (especially the good ones) take great pains to space and size characters so they look great on screen and print, thus optimizing the reading experience. Start with these small changes and see your texts demonstrate that extra polish and finesse.

About the author

Quantico Copywriting Author: Quantico Copywriting is a startup from a handful of experienced copywriters dedicated to creating rich communication experiences. Quantico Copywriting agency is located in Singapore. The agency's purpose is to make top-notch copywriting affordable and accessible to everyone. Google+

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