em dashes and en dashes


What are the rules for using them? I've looked them up in chicago manuel and other places but its still not real clear to me how to use them and how often is it okay?

asked Feb 27 '13 at 19:22 sharon taylor New member

1 answer


The Chicago Manual of Style provides perhaps the best explanation of Em- and En-dashes available.


I'll try to provide a simplified explanation that will necessarily omit some of the rare exceptions to the rules.


Em-dashes (unicode character U+2014) are used as a substitute for commas or parenthesis marks. Unless a comma, a comma pair, or pair of parenthesis marks would be grammatically correct in the sentence, the em-dash should not be inserted.  The em-dash indicates a more emphatic pause than the plain comma. The em-dash should be used sparingly. 


The en-dash (unicode character U+2013) is a substitute for the word "to" and is used primarly to indicate a range. Here are several examples (but with a hyphen given the limitations of this website):


Pages 25-32 --> means Pages 25 to 32

The Paris-Milan train --> means the Paris to Milan train

The exhibit will be open 3-21 March 2013 --> 3rd of March to 21st of March


I hope this helps.

link comment answered Feb 28 '13 at 04:47 Jeff Pribyl Grammarly Fellow

Your answer

Write at least 20 characters

Have a question about English grammar, style or vocabulary use? Ask now to get help from Grammarly experts for FREE.