Using Dashes Correctly

Most people say that “the dash is just a line”, but these people are wrong. Dashes can help identify times, prices, dates, quotes or pauses. This article will explain how you can start using dashes correctly.

Ways Of Using Dashes Correctly

A typewriter to show the metaphor of using dashes correctly isn't just an old school technique
Using dashes correctly isn’t just an old-school technique.

Hyphen

Firstly looking at the hyphen (the default dash?). A hyphen (“-“) is used for linking words and parts of words together. A word may be too long and run onto the next line, so a hyphen is used to link the two parts together. It is also used for words like “two-thirds“.

TIP: Remember to always turn hyphenation off when designing, unless you want it for some reason.

En Dash

Secondly looking at the en dash. An en-dash (“–”) is used to display a range or a relation. This can be times (“10–11AM), prices (£10–£20), page numbers (p5–10), and any other range you wish to display.

Next time you walk past your local barbers, take a look at the opening times, or even take a look at a takeaway menu, we estimate that around 7/10 independent companies will make the mistake of using hyphens to space their opening times, rather than en-dashes.

Em Dash

Finally, we have the em dash. We normally only use it for pauses within a sentence, and to display author names (from books, quotes, etc).

Never mistake legibility for communication.
—David Carson

Remember if you get stuck remembering EN/EM, just measure it with the size of the N or M to indicate what type of dash it is.

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