English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

Possible Duplicate:
When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen?

This is about hyphens (-), en-dashes (–) and em-dashes (—).

When to use which one? To be honest, I always use em-dashes unless I join words with a hyphen, but I never use an en-dash.

share|improve this question

marked as duplicate by JSBձոգչ, nohat Jan 17 '11 at 18:21

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

Exact Duplicate of: When should I use an em-dash, an en-dash, and a hyphen? – Sid Jan 17 '11 at 13:00
@iamsid I'm sorry. It didn't show up in the 'related' box when I typed the title. I don't have enough rep yet to close this. :( – rightfold Jan 17 '11 at 13:17
@iamsid, no I'm a Time Machine. :) – rightfold Jan 17 '11 at 13:28
Machine: No need to apologize! We're only human. :) – Sid Jan 17 '11 at 13:28

Hyphens are used in compound modifiers.

  • a well-trained professional
  • over-the-counter drugs

En dashes are used in place of "to" to connect numbers or words.

  • The London–Amsterdam flight is delayed.
  • The meeting is from 3:00–4:30 p.m.

Em dashes help set off amplifying or explanatory statements.

  • The vampire—it had been awake half the night—flew out of its coffin.
share|improve this answer
Couldn't have said it better myself. – Robusto Jan 17 '11 at 15:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.