The Write Stuff
September 2015 Volume 11 Issue 9
Hyphens, Dashes & More
I often correct the misuse of letter “accessories” such as hyphens, en dashes and em dashes. Each has a proper use, as denoted below.
The smallest of the three, hyphens are found on keyboards and have two main purposes: linking compound words (aka hyphenated) and joining prefixes to other words. For example:
- The presentation featured user-generated content.
- We co-own the building.
En Dashes (–)
Next largest are en dashes, which are made by leaving a space after a word, typing a hyphen and then leaving a space before the next word. They’re used to specify any kind of range, such as:
- The school year for my niece and nephew is August–May.
- The seminar runs from 9 a.m.–noon.
Em Dashes (—)
The “big daddies,” em dashes are made in the same way en dashes are, except two hyphens are typed and the spaces before and after them are eliminated. They’re used instead of commas or parentheses to separate phrases or words in a sentence, like this:
- The Chicago Cubs—my favorite team—are seemingly headed to the playoffs for the first time since 2008.
- San Diego is expected to get a lot of rain this winter—but will it alleviate the drought?
You can also create en and em dashes using shortcuts, which vary from PCs to Macs, so I invite you to research what’s appropriate for you.
National Punctuation Day is next week, September 24. Who knew? You’ll have to celebrate—but how? I have a few suggestions: eating cake and ice cream; enjoying a cocktail; and using a variety of punctuation marks in one paragraph! (Count ’em: a total of 15.)
Training or Trainings
Once in a while I see someone use the word “trainings,” i.e., there are five trainings next week, and it always seems wrong; it doesn’t sound right. “Training sessions” certainly rolls better off the tongue, so that would be my suggestion if asked to weigh in on this multiple training question.
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