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Note 20 – ‘Dashes’ in writing (Part 2)

For the background to my writing challenge, please read my first blog by clicking the following link –  If you would prefer to dive straight into note 20, then please read on…

Using dashes in writing

If you read yesterday’s blog, you will know that (according to The Elements of Style by Strunk and White) “a dash is a mark of separation stronger than a comma, less formal than a colon and more relaxed than parentheses”.   Yesterday, I blogged mainly about the longer dash which is called the ’em-dash’.  Today I will compare the two different types of dashes and how to create them on your computer.

The difference between long and short dashes 

According to The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation by John Seely, the dash is like an extended hyphen and it comes in two sizes the en-dash (–) and the em-dash (—).  Bernard C Lamb in his book The Queen’s English explains that the en-dash was named that way, as it was originally the length of the letter ‘n’ and the em-dash originally the length of the letter ‘m’.

The en-dash (–) or short dash 

  • Hasn’t got a space before and after
  • Is used to show a span e.g. She reigned from 1925-37

The em-dash (—) or the long dash

  • Has a space before and after, apart from when it is used at the end of a sentence to indicate an interruption e.g. “Stop right where you are and—”
  • For more examples see examples in yesterday’s note 19 “‘Dashes in writing (Part 1)”

How you can create different length dashes using your computer  (– —)

Bernard C Lamb explains that most word-processors automatically put the appropriate dash in as you type.  It will also create the en-dash if you type a hyphen and then a space.  If you want to be more technical, I have tried his technique below and it works:

For en-dashes (short dashes)

Put Num Lock on
Hold down the ALT key and type 0150

For em-dashes (long dashes)

Put Num Lock on
Hold down the ALT key and type 0150

That’s it for today.  Enjoy the rest of the day, wherever you are.

Until tomorrow…


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Twitter: @madeirasandra  and  @tipsandluxuries

Reference list

William Strunk Jr. and E.B. White  The Elements of Style, fiftieth anniversary edition (2009), USA

John Seely  The Oxford A-Z of Grammar & Punctuation, USA

Bernard C Lamb The Queen’s English


About Sandra Madeira

I am a full-time working mum with a passion for writing and inspiring others. Subjects I tend to blog about are life skills, parenting, decluttering, worklife balance, etc. At the moment I am on a decluttering mission creating space in my house, garden and mind. I have challenged myself to do at least ten minutes a day and write about it. Have a good day! Sandra Freelance Writer


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