The Dash

Punctuation Marks

Part 11

The Dash —

The dash (—) is a mark of punctuation used to set off a word or phrase after an independent clause or a parenthetical remark (words, phrases or clauses that interrupt a sentence).

Note: As William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White explained in The Elements of Style: “A dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon and more relaxed than parentheses.”

Types of Dashes

The Em Dash and En Dash

About: The em dash—also called the “long dash,” according to Oxford Online Dictionaries—and the en dash, which doesn’t have another name falls between the hyphen and em dash in terms of length. The en dash is so named because it’s approximately the equivalent width of the uppercase letter N and the em dash is roughly the width of an uppercase M.

Here are some examples and uses:

En Dash 

• She works from 8 a.m.– 5 p.m.

• Items of equal weight (test–retest, male–female, the Chicago–London flight)

• Page ranges (in references, “…Journal of Applied Psychology, 86, 718–729”)

Em Dash

• To signal an abrupt change.

• To set off a series within a phrase.

• Before attribution to an author or composer in some formats.

• After datelines.

• To start lists.


“Copper Lincoln cents—pale zinc-coated steel for a year in the war—figure in my earliest impressions of money.”

—John Updike, “A Sense of Change,” The New Yorker, April 26, 1999


The Hyphen

–  The hyphen (-) is a mark that joins words or parts of words and is placed directly between letters and with no spaces. 

The difference between the two is in their uses and length.

Visual Difference

•   Hyphen –

•  En Dash –

• Em Dash —

•  — – –

Writing Software Auto-Dash:

• Conveniently, common use word processing software, such as Microsoft Word, will automatically turn two hyphens together followed by a space and another word into a dash. (From — to – [word])

• Additionally, keyboards for both MAC and PC have shortcuts that either come with an auto-dash programmed or a shortcut could be added.

This concludes the workshop on the dash. Please go back and re-read the information contained in this workshop before completing the dash worksheet.

After you have re-read the information in this workshop, test your dash punctuation mark knowledge. Please complete the Dash Worksheet. You’ll find it on our website. At the top of the page, just click on the menu section and then select Worksheets.

If you have any questions, please feel free to post them in the section below titled Leave a Reply/Leave a Comment. In the comment section below, a member of our teaching staff will provide helpful feedback to any question related to this workshop.

We hope you enjoyed this workshop!

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