Tag Archives: en-dashes

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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Not many people know that …

I am going to keep this short and sweet and enlighten some of you on three very common grammar blips that I keep seeing lately … grammar you groan, but pay attention, it might help you.

So how many times in your writing do you use the dot dot dot? (Maybe like a duf duf duf moment like at the end of EastEnders?)

Technically, the ellipsis should be used to show an omission of information and there should always be a space between the first and the last dots (see what I’ve done in the title here).

If the omission is at the end of the sentence, if you’re quoting something but not finishing it, then you also include a stop as well.

According to Debz, ‘ Writers really ought to get to grips with grammar … use ellipses wisely ….’

The first shows part of a missing quote, the second that there is also more to the quote and the sentence ends, hence the 4th one.

Don’t write ‘Writers should always get to grips with grammar…use ellipses wisely’ with no spaces!

Don’t use ellipses at the beginning of a quote to show missing information

“… and furthermore be careful with en-dashes and em-dashes.” Incorrect.

Use “furthermore be careful” and so on.

Ellipses are often used as a dramatic pause and to denote an interruption in dialogue. They should be used to show faltering or trailing speech … so “Well, I … I was thinking of going.”

Or “Well …”  to show speech trailing off. Some do not use spaces but technically you should although typesetters will correct at the time of publication.

But here’s the biggie, how do you make your ellipses on your pc? Three full stops? Wrong.

Here is the correct way : Space control-alt-fullstop space. Try it!

And really to show dialogue trailing off, you ought to use a dash (never a hyphen!).

Hyphens (on your keyboard) only have 2 uses: to break a word that goes onto the next line (not needed in Word but when books are typeset) or for double-barrelled names, joining words 13-year-olds.

The age range is 12-13 … incorrect.

The age range is  12 – 13 … correct, and spaces are advised. This is an en-dash.

Type:  word, space, 1 (or 2 works the same) hyphens, word, space  — and the en-dash is created.

The en-dash is the width of an ‘n’.

It usually is used for lists – word, word, word  and ranges from 16 – 17.

For interrupted speech, rather than an ellipsis, it ought to be an em-dash.

This is the width of an ‘m’.


or to separate clauses:

He was so anxious about his results—and why wouldn’t he be, given his class average—he forgot to walk the dog.

How do you make them? Word, two hyphens, word, space and it turns it into one! Here there are usually no spaces.

There are exceptions and you won’t get rejected for getting it wrong, but if you can — get it right!

Here endeth the lesson.

So, any more Blog 200 pieces for me: add here to the comments and read what we have so far!  BLOG 200 Challenge


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