The Forgotten En Dash

Few people seem to use en dashes these days. My experience is that only professional publishers and people with a detailed knowledge of punctuation know how to use it correctly. The 15th edition of the Chicago Manual of Style offers a few helpful examples of when it should be used.

Use an en dash in place of the word “to,” or to specify a range “up to and including (or through)” (Chicago, page 261). The most common use of this is in a page range, for example: 146–158. Here’s another: New York–Paris flight.

Also use an en dash instead of a hyphen in a compound adjective when one of the elements is an open compound or two or more elements are open compounds. For example: “The condominium–apartment complex proposal.” (OK, I admit this is an awkward example.) Let’s try one directly from Chicago: “a hospital–nursing home connection.”

It gets a little tricky, and no one will accuse you of being a punctuation snob if you stick with the good old hyphen. But I like the en dash, and I don’t want it to die.

Long live the en dash!

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