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Dash Like a Pro: The Ultimate Guide to Effective Punctuation

Comprehensive Definition, Description, Examples & Rules 

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What is Dash

The answer to the question of what is an em dash is that it is a punctuation mark that indicates a pause in a phrase. It’s more involved than a hyphen and serves many purposes.

Depending on the style guide or typographic standards, the dash may be rendered by two hyphens (–) or an em dash (—). The differences between a dash and a hyphen are described as follows.

  • The primary distinction between a dash and a hyphen is their relative length. A hyphen is usually the same width as the letters in a word, whereas a dash is typically the width of two hyphens or an em dash longer. You can’t just replace a hyphen with a dash since the dash is longer.
  • Dashes are used in a variety of contexts that hyphens aren’t:

When two or more words must be joined together, the Hyphen (-) is used. It’s shorter than a dash and has a distinct meaning.

Types of dash


  • Words that Go Together: A hyphen is often used to combine two words. It’s a systematic method for creating specialized new comments by combining two or more words. Famous, Mother-in-law, and Working for Oneself are just a few examples.
  • The second common application for hyphens in written text is to separate words at the end of a line. This is done to see that there is enough spacing between words and that there is not too much white space. If a term extends over the end of a line, a hyphen is used to join it to the following line, and the rest of the word is written there. We term this technique “hyphenation.”

En Dash

The en dash (-) is a punctuation mark that falls between the Hyphen (-) and the emdash (—) in terms of length. It gets its moniker because it’s sized similarly to the letter “n” in specific fonts. The en dash is only used to show a span or to link two things together. To further understand what an en dash is, consider the following:

  • The en dash is often used to denote a range of integers, as in the first example. It demonstrates that both sets of numbers are interrelated and inclusive. Case in point:

   Referring to the range of pages 10–15 as “pages 10-15”

  Second, an en dash may represent a range of dates, which denotes the period, including two specific dates. Case in point:

What is Em Dash

what are em dashes? Unlike the shorter Hyphen (-) and en dash (-), the em-dash (—) is much longer. The breadth of the letter “m” in several fonts inspired the name. The em dash is used to show a sentence pause or highlight a particular part of a phrase. An em dash uses are defined and discussed below.

  • First, the em dash is used to emphasize a particular phrase or part of a sentence or to interrupt the flow of a sentence. It may underline or startle by suggesting a sudden pause or interruption. 

  • Just now, the official election results were out, and they are frightening.
  • Em dashes denote the beginning and end of a parenthetical phrase or sentence. Within a term, they provide more data, clarification, or digression. Case in point:

em dash vs en dash

Significant distinctions exist between the em dash symbol (—) and the en dash (-), two punctuation marks used to denote breaks or links in a sentence. The en dash vs em dash are contrasted below.

  • The em dash is longer than the en dash for many reasons. The em dash is around the width of the letter “m,” whereas the en dash is about the width of “n.”
  •  Usage: The em dash (—) denotes a pause in a sentence, which may be used to highlight a particular phrase or element.

Separates clauses or phrases inside brackets.

Use in place of commas or brackets for a more pronounced separation.

Ability to specify the origin of a quotation or comment.

One may say, “I can’t believe she actually ate the whole cake—without sharing!”

Other Types of Dash

There are many additional dashes besides the em dash and en dash, each of which has its unique function. Two more energies are briefly described below.

  • First, there’s the 2-em dash (——), twice as long as an em dash. It is seldom used outside niche contexts, such as in highly specialized typographic styles or editorial notations. Its meaning and use might shift depending on the publication in which it appears.
  • Second, the 3-em dash (———) is three times as long as a regular em dash. Extremely uncommon, its meaning usually depends on the author’s intended tone or context. It is limited to stringent typographic norms, much like the 2-em dash.

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Key Takeaways

  1. One of the many uses of punctuation marks is to express pauses in thinking or emphasis within a phrase.

  2. Second, it may serve as a sentence fragment to separate apart further material or explanatory context.

  3. Third, the dash is much longer than a hyphen (-) and usually takes up the whole width of the letter “m” in the typeface.

  4. Fourth, it may be used for commas, brackets, and colons when appropriate.

  5. The dash emphasizes the preceding text and highlights the next one.


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Frequently Asked Questions

How do I type an em dash on a keyboard?

The em dash (—) may be typed in one of the following ways on most keyboards: 

First, use the numeric keypad to enter the code “0151” while holding down the “Alt” key. 

  1. Use the “Ctrl+Alt” combination followed by the “-” key on the numeric keypad. 

Third, make use of the software-specific shortcut keys.

How do I type an en dash on a keyboard?

You may use one of the following techniques to write an en dash (-) on most keyboards:

The first step is to use the shortcut “Ctrl+minus” (on the regular keyboard) or “Alt+0150” (on the numeric keypad).

To use a shortcut that is unique to your word processor, press.

Third, specific programs will transform a double hyphen into an en dash if you type it with a space before and after.

Can I use a hyphen instead of a dash?

Use punctuation correctly if you want your writing to be easy to understand and follow standard English grammatical rules. A hyphen (-) may superficially resemble a dash (-), although it is not always an acceptable replacement. While hyphens may link or separate words at line breaks, dashes have more specialized uses, such as denoting pauses, interruptions, and ranges.

Can I use multiple dashes in a sentence?

It’s permitted to use many dashes in a single phrase for artistic effect; however, it is discouraged for clarity. Using too many dashes might make the text easier to read. Try rephrasing your statement or using a different punctuation mark to avoid obscuring your meaning with many dashes.

Can I use a dash instead of a comma or semicolon?

A dash (em dash) may be used instead of a comma or semicolon. However, lives should be used sparingly and with an eye toward the sentence’s general readability and clarity. Energies emphasize a point, and different ideas, introduce parenthetical sentences, and denote a sudden shift.

How do I insert a dash in Microsoft Word?

Microsoft Word’s built-in dash-inserting options are:

First, simultaneously create an em dash (-) by pressing “Ctrl” and the minus key on the numeric keypad.

For an em dash (—), use “Ctrl+Alt” and the minus key on the numeric keypad.

You may also pick the required dash using the “Insert” tab, “Symbol,” and the appropriate drop-down menu.

How do I insert a dash in Google Docs?

The em dash (-) may be inserted in Google Docs in a few different ways: 1. by pressing “Ctrl” and the minus key on the numeric keypad.

For an em dash (—), use “Ctrl+Alt” and the minus key on the numeric keypad.

How do I insert a dash in Apple Pages?

Press Option + Hyphen to put an en dash (-) into Apple Pages.

To create an em dash (—), use Option + Shift + Hyphen.

Third, you may put a dash by going to the “Insert” menu, clicking “Special Characters,” and typing “dash” into the search bar.

When to use a dash?

The em dash is used to denote pauses in a sentence or to highlight specific words or phrases. It may represent the end of a parenthetical statement as a more significant break than a comma or semicolon or as a quotation mark. When the flow of a phrase requires a more noticeable pause or emphasis, a dash is utilized.

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