The dash is a powerful punctuation mark. Overuse dilutes its strength. Let a colon, semicolon, comma,
period, or a new sentence do its usual work and save the dash for its specialty: an abrupt change in the continuity of a sentence.
Use an em dash (shift-option-hyphen) to add emphasis or explanation.
This versatile plan lets you try out your ideas—all of them—at the kitchen table.
On the next page you’ll find a portfolio of external surface materials—what they are, what they look
like, and what jobs they do best.
Use an em dash (shift-option-hyphen) to enumerate or define an element added to a sentence.
Each type—brushes, rollers, and pads—has a specific use.
Craft this elegant accessory—a silvery picture frame—to commemorate a couple’s 25th wedding anniversary.
Use an em dash (shift-option-hyphen) to set off a parenthetical expression when a comma might be misread.
Several alternatives—resilient tiles and sheet goods, wood, and hard-surface flooring—offer you an opportunity to experiment.
Use an em dash (shift-option-hyphen) to set off a sudden break in thought or sentence construction.
Will he—can he—obtain the necessary signatures?
The tree, the bush, the fern—all are attractive to the neighbor’s dog.
Use an en dash (option-hyphen) to represent “to” between figures, including fractions, except in recipe copy, quilting materials lists, and where hanging hyphens are used.
the years 1970–73
23–28 percent increase
3 to 31⁄2 cups
Bake 18 to 20 minutes
10 to 12—9×22″ pieces (fat eighths)
2- to 3-inch piece
The word to, not an en dash, must be used if the numbers are preceded by the word from.
Wrong: Construction of the transcontinental railroad from 1869–1885 …
Right: Construction of the transcontinental railroad from 1869 to 1885 …
OR: Construction of the transcontinental railroad, 1869–1885, …
Wrong: Chief among these were the two governors, George Clinton (from 1777–95) and DeWitt
Clinton (from 1817–22 and 1824–28).
Right: Chief among these were the two governors, George Clinton (1777–95) and DeWitt Clinton (1817–22 and 1824–28).
See also Hyphens.