For terms like liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry that typically use an en dash rather than a hyphen, would an en dash still be used in the acronym, LC–MS? Or would we only need a hyphen there, LC-MS?

EDIT: Anybody have a style guide that speaks to this issue?

  • Why not just LCMS and be done with it?
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 22:54
  • I think there's some clarity added by the punctuation because LC and MS are independent techniques.
    – Craig W
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 22:57
  • 1
    Typography is language independent (not an English question). Suggest you try at Graphic Design.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Mar 27, 2013 at 23:09
  • 2
    @MετάEd I disagree that how one writes initialisms is somehow off-topic here. This is not “mere” typography. Go down that road and you’ll be saying that using hyphens for dashes and vice versa is off-topic, and that’s just wrong.
    – tchrist
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 16:36
  • 1
    This is a style issue, but en-dashes are for ranges not phrases. Note also that these techniques are referred to as hyphenated mass spectrometric in literature.
    – horatio
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 21:23

2 Answers 2


It looks like the judges are still out on this one. I did a quick search on the web, and found all sorts of variations on the abbreviation, so you can take your pick: LC-MS, LC–MS, and LC/MS were the most common. Perhaps your authors have a preference.


This is a style issue with your publication. If your pub has no defined style for this, then pick one, and be consistent. Few people are even aware of the distinction between hypen, endash, emdash, but they are quick to spot when it's not the same in consecutive paragraphs.

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