Tag Archives: Copy Editing Quick Notes Series

Making a Quick Dash {Copy Editing Quick Note Series) 1

Short and sweet like a dash

hyphens, en dashes and em dashes


So this is what we all do wrong a lot: we use hyphens to separate sentence clauses.

The man – the one wearing blue – got off the bus. Wrong dash!

I tend to prefer good old commas for this but you can use dashes but not hyphens. The one I prefer is the spaced en rule or the en dash.

Create an en dash the long way: type the word, type a space, type one or two hyphens, a space, next word and as you type the space after the next word watch what Word does to the length of your hyphen! (Note where it doesn’t work is if the word after is a contraction like it’s in which case insert space after it and then edit back to it’s! Convoluted right?) Or easier: short cut hold down control-minus sign (but only works with minus sign next to your numbers on the right panel not along the top of the keyboard as this makes your screen text smaller, another function.)

The man – the one wearing blue – got off the bus.

You can also use the em dash but this is seen more in the US actually: this has no space and it’s the same dash you use for interrupted speech:

Type word no space hyphen hyphen (one doesn’t work) no space next word and now when you add a space see what it does to the dash!

Or short cut control-alt-minus sign in number panel — no spaces here remember.

The man—the one wearing blue—got off the bus.


Care with the latter use to invert the closing speech mark or type “But” and then go in and add in the em dash or the speech mark is the wrong way round.

Also use en dash or em dash for time intervals like: 2001—2002

Hyphens (the short dash) ‘-’  are only used to break words like twenty-five, run-on, ice-cream (can be without too) or a three-year-old child etc.


Bonus extra:

If you have a missing letter at the start of a word and use an apostrophe — Over ’ere, Boy — if you’re using the curly speech marks of New Times Roman it will put it the wrong way so you need to invert it:

Over ‘ere, Boy Wrong.

So you need to type the closing one and then delete the first one:

Over ’ere, Boy  Correct.

At the end of a word it will be correct:

Nothin’  Correct.

Got it! Here endeth one of my short copy editing notes! More to come over the summer!





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