Everything English

Writing and Grammar Tips (beta)

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For the uninitiated, a dash is often thought to be a hyphen mark. Well, it is not so. Hyphens and dashes have different significance in English grammar. Moreover, there are different types of dashes, used for different grammatical situations.

Check out the minus key (-) on your keyboard: that is the width of a hyphen mark. Hyphen is used to write twin words, compound verbs, adverbs and adjectives.


He is a hanky-panky guy.

Poor Joe is in a love-hate relationship.

We are working towards becoming a carbon-neutral nation.

The use of hyphen marks is rather limited. Dashes, however, are wider than hyphens and even have wider usages. Dashes are categorized into two types: En dash and Em dash. Both get their names from the width of the alphabet (`n’ and `m’) they are associated with.  So, Em dash is twice longer than En dash.

En Dash is used to represent a range of values or distances. On the computer, it can be typed by inserting the “dash” symbol from the symbols column.

Examples with En Dash:

According to the CEO, 2009−10 was the best year for the company so far.

We covered Delhi−Bangalore in just one hour.

Women in the age group of 45−55 years are most prone to osteoporosis.

Em Dash is used to represent more complex elements. It is used to insert an additional piece of information that needs adequate emphasis in the sentence. On the computer, type a double hyphen between two letters without a gap and you’ll get an Em Dash.

Examples with Em Dash:

My colleague—also a product of MIT—participated in the conference.

The children—the bedrock of our society—must be groomed well.

My aunt—a famous writer herself—attended the book launch.

Note that there is no space on either side of the em dash.

An em dash could also be used to separate the last part of the sentence.


Can I borrow some money?—oh no, it’s alright.

Many celebrities attended the function—cricketers, film stars, politicians and businessmen and so on.

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