Distinguishing Em Dash & En Dash: The Key Differences

Em Dash vs En Dash

There are various tools in the English language used for spacing between words in a text, such as the Em dash, En dash, and hyphen. Those learning English often get confused by the terms Em and En in dashes and are unsure which one to use in written language. Many people do not know the difference between an Em dash and an En dash, leading to mistakes when writing English text. This article clarifies the differences between the two dashes to help readers use them correctly for spacing.

Em Dash

The Em dash is a type of dash used for punctuation in the English language. It is called the Em dash because of its length, which is equal to the width of the letter M on a computer keyboard. When using an Em dash in written language, no spaces should be given before or after it. This dash is used sparingly in formal language, but it is frequently used in informal writing. The Em dash is used in a sentence when a long pause is desired, often appearing like an afterthought.

En Dash

The En dash is a kind of punctuation that is longer than a hyphen but much shorter than an Em dash. Its name comes from its width, which is the same as the letter N on a keyboard. The En dash is commonly used when writing date ranges, meaning “up to and including,” such as in the example “Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901) was marked by long and tight dresses for women.” The same En dash is also used to describe number ranges, such as age ranges. Numbers denoting a range are spaced using the En dash.

Key Takeaways

  • Both Em dash and En dash are types of dashes that should not be confused with hyphens and are used as punctuation marks.
  • The Em dash is longer than the En dash, with its name coming from the letter M on a keyboard, while the En dash gets its name from the letter N on a keyboard.
  • The Em dash is used to give a pause or long break in a sentence, creating the impression of an afterthought, while the En dash is used to denote a range, such as in dates or numbers.
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard
Gil Tillard is an accomplished writer with expertise in creating engaging articles and content across various platforms. His dedication to research and crafting high-quality content has led to over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience. In his personal life, Gil enjoys connecting with people from diverse backgrounds and cultures. His curiosity and eagerness to learn from others fuel his passion for communication. He believes that engaging with strangers can be both enlightening and enjoyable, making it easier to strike up conversations and expand one's horizons.


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