Using Dashes and Hyphens
When asked what edits I make most often to clients’ content, my answer hasn’t changed in some time. Just about every day, I correct misuse of hyphens or dashes. I’ve covered this topic in previous newsletters, but it’s seemingly worth another go.
Hyphens have one use only: to hyphenate words.
- Cost-effective purchase
- Multimillion-dollar sale
- Five-time winner
En Dashes (–)
En dashes are primarily used to show ranges in numbers and dates.
- 7 – 9 p.m.
- Nov. 1 – Dec. 1
Em Dashes (—)
Em dashes are typically used to stand in for commas or parentheses to separate phrases within a sentence.
- Every vote counts — especially this year — so make sure your voice is heard on Nov. 6.
- I’ve voted by mail for years — so I can take my time making decisions and bypass the polls.
On an Apple keyboard, option + hyphen results in an en dash, and shift + option + hyphen results in an em dash. Other shortcuts are available via online search.
Please note: My examples are written in AP style; in Chicago style, there would be no space on either side of the en and em dashes. Also, an ellipsis (…) is not interchangeable with an em dash — it indicates an omission.
Now that wasn’t too scary, was it? Happy Halloween!
The human brain certainly works in mysterious ways, and the fact that our eyes sometimes see things that aren’t there proves it. I refer to words, of course, and the difficulty of proofing your own work — because you know what you meant to say, so you may not realize you’ve omitted a word or allowed a typo to go unnoticed. It happens to us all, but how do you think the person who goofed on this Cathay Pacific plane feels? This has to be the largest typo ever!
Two ways to banish typos from your work: have someone else review it or slowly read it aloud.
Indexes or Indicies?
A couple things that make English such a hard language to learn are all the exceptions to its rules and situations where multiple options are correct. Take the word index. How would you make it plural — indexes or indices? You’ve likely seen it both ways, and there’s a reason for that: either spelling is acceptable. The former uses the English way of adding “es” to pluralize words ending in x, while the latter is originally a Latin plural.