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EN Dashes (-) and EM Dashes (—) – Guide with Examples

Published by at August 17th, 2021 , Revised On November 12, 2021

There are two types of dashes in the English language, including the EN and EM dash. As the name suggests, the EN dash is approximately the length of the letter ‘n’, whereas the size of the EM dash is the same as the width of the letter’ m’.

These two types of dashes serve different purposes:

The EN dash, the shorter of the two dashes, is used to mark ranges.

The longer EM dash is used as a break or to separate additional information in a sentence.

You may see an EN dash used in the same way as the EM dash. If that is the case, you will notice a space on either side of the EN dash.

It is easy to confuse dashes with hyphens, which are slightly shorter in size. A hyphen is used to combine words to give more context to the information, such as research-based, long-term, and business-oriented. Hyphens and dashes are not interchangeable, so do not use a dash in place of a hyphen.

Use of EN Dash

An EN dash is used to signpost a time period or a range of numbers. You could think of an EN dash as a symbolic representation of the words “to” and “through”.

EN Dash Examples

James earned a promotion after the company ABC had a successful 2019-2020 fiscal year.

Pages 30-33 of the document had no in-text citation.

Many companies have allowed their employees to work regular 9:00 am-5:00 pm hours from home during the COVID pandemic.

Use of EM Dash

The EM dash is used to separate or mark additional information, which is not essential to the context of the sentence. Their use is similar to that of a pair of commas or parentheses.

You cannot use a space on either side of the EM dash.

EM Dash Examples

Here are some examples of using EM dash to mark off less important information in a sentence.

Primary research methodssuch as questionnaires and surveysare an essential part of any academic research.

Long agowhen the industrial revolution still didn’t take placethe world’s environment was cleaner.

You can also use EM dashes to break off a sentence and indicate a change of tone. In this context, the EM dash is used similarly to a semicolon or colon.

For example,

There is no point convincing himhe has already made up his mind.

However, using dashes in place of semicolons and colons is not recommended in academic writing.

Can I use EN Dashes in Place of EM Dashes?

Outside the boundaries of formal writing, you could see an EN dash used in place of an EM dash. While this is not considered a language mistake, you will need to add a space on either side of the EN dash when used in place of an EM dash.

Statistical analysis software – such as SPSS, Excel, STATA, and eViews – are commonly used at the university level.

The EM dash is common in American English, while the EN dash is more dominant in British English.

Regardless of the type of dash you use in your writing, make sure to be consistent. If you use both types of dashes interchangeably in the same text, it will be seen as a language mistake.

  • Bill Gates-who is the president, Chief Executive Officer, founder, and chairman of Microsoft-is leading the research work in viruses.
  • Bill Gates—who is the president, Chief Executive Officer, founder, and chairman of Microsoft—is leading the research work in viruses.
  • Bill Gates – who is the president, Chief Executive Officer, founder, and chairman of Microsoft – is leading the research work in viruses.


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