Did you know em dashes ( — ), en dashes ( – ) and hyphens (-) aren’t interchangeable? They each have different purposes. But there’s one rule that applies to all three: no matter what, never add spaces to either side of your dash or hyphen.
One of Hudl’s favorite pieces of punctuation is the em dash. It’s the long dash you can put in place of nearly every other piece of punctuation.
The pause created by an em dash can serve a few different purposes:
- It can connect two separate, but related and complete thoughts (a semicolon also does this).
- It can create a dramatic effect before a punchy close.
- A pair can frame an aside in the middle of a sentence, like parentheses or commas.
Within the product, em dashes should only be used in wordy modals or longer blocks of text.
To create an em dash on a Mac, press the shift, option and hyphen keys. On a PC, hold down Alt, then type 0151, then let go of Alt.
Here we deviate from AP Style and use the en dash to represent number ranges, in place of “to” or “through.”
- The session will run from 1 – 3 p.m.
- These are the results from FY19 – 20.
- The clinic is May 1 – 5.
To create an en dash on a Mac, press the option and hyphen keys. On a PC, hold down Alt, then type 0150, then let go of Alt.
In the case of numbers, use hyphens to separate non-inclusive digits, like a phone number or Social Security number.
With words, you can use a hyphen to make one word out of two. Hyphenate two (or more!) words into a compound adjective when they come before the noun they modify:
- High-quality video
- Out-of-season scrimmage
Any time you have a number and a noun that work together as an adjective, use a hyphen.
- Three-year agreement
When deciding whether or not a word needs a hyphen, think of your audience. Will they be confused if you leave the hyphen off? Is there another way for them to infer the information? You can also try Googling it with “AP style” in the search, a lot of times you’ll find the recommended answer.
Sometimes it really is a judgment call — just remember, choose the option that adds clarity for the reader, not confusion.