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#5. Dash It All! Part A: Hyphen and En Dash, more in SDW/EG member Larry Edwards’ series on common errors writers make.

Polishing Your Prose

From the Editor’s Eye
The 10 Most Common Errors Made by Writers
(And How to Fix Them)

The sixth of a ten-part series.

#5. Dash It All! Part A: Hyphen and En Dash

I must dash—but I am taking time to post the first of a two-parter on those straight-line thingies people use (and abuse) when “punchuating” their words. (Yep, these’re worth fightin’ over!) I will post the second part next week.

We have three types of punctuation marks that look enough alike to create confusion:


You see? Size does matter. (“en” and “em” indicate their respective widths)

These marks are used to either to JOIN or SEPARATE:

  • Hyphen joins syllables, words, and numbers
  • En dash joins syllables, words, and numbers
  • Em dash separates words and phrases

People often confuse the hyphen with the dash, the em dash in particular. Probably because the hyphen is the most similar character…

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