What Is A Dash?
A dash is a little line that is written in the middle of the line (not at the bottom: that’s an underscore). It’s longer than a hyphen. Dashes are used to separate groups of words, not to separate parts of words like a hyphen does.
There are three formats for dashes: em, en, and the double hyphen. If you’re writing on a computer, the font you’ve chosen will automatically take care of the issue for you. If you’re writing by hand or on a typewriter, the em dash is longer (the width of the letter m) and is used between words; the en dash is a little shorter (the width of the letter n) and is used between numbers like forty-four; the double hyphen is used on typewriters or with computer fonts which don’t have a dash key.
We waited for the bus — in the cold, driving rain — for almost an hour.
This sentence uses em dashes.
We waited for the bus -- in the cold, driving rain -- for almost an hour.
This sentence uses the double hyphens, but we’d only use them if we were writing on a machine which didn’t have an em dash. Even when handwriting, an em dash is naturally used.
Can you count out twenty-six dollars, please?
This sentence uses an en dash.
- Next article Dash: Parenthetical Information